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Murray N. Rothbard 



The first edition was published in 1979 by Arlington House Publishers. 

A four-volume hardback edition was published by the Ludwig von Mises Institute 

in 1999. 

Single-volume edition © 201 1 Ludwig von Mises Institute and published under 
the Creative Commons Attribution License 3.0. 

Published by the Ludwig von Mises Institute 
518 West Magnolia Avenue 
Auburn, Alabama 36832 

ISBN: 978-1-933550-98-5 


Preface xv 

Volume 1 

A New Land, A New People: The American Colonies 

in the Seventeenth Century 1 

PART I — Europe, England, and the New World 3 

1. Europe at the Dawn of the Modern Era 5 

2. New World, New Land 36 

Part II — The Southern Colonies in the Seventeenth Century 41 

3. The Virginia Company 43 

4. From Company to Royal Colony 55 

5. The Social Structure of Virginia: Planters and Farmers 57 

6. The Social Structure of Virginia: Bondservants and Slaves 60 

7. Religion in Virginia 68 

8. The Royal Government of Virginia 71 

9. British Mercantilism over Virginia 77 

10. Relations with the Indians 85 

1 1. Bacons Rebellion 93 

12. Maryland 104 

1 3. The Carolinas Ill 

14. The Aftermath of Bacons Rebellion in the 

Other Southern Colonies 116 

15. The Glorious Revolution and its Aftermath 121 

16. Virginia After Bacons Rebellion 134 

PART III— The Founding of New England 145 

17. The Religious Factor 147 

1 8. The Founding of Plymouth Colony 1 50 

19. The Founding of Massachusetts Bay 155 

20. The Puritans "Purify": Theocracy in Massachusetts 164 

21. Suppressing Heresy: The Flight of Roger Williams 172 

22. Suppressing Heresy: The Flight of Anne Hutchinson 180 

23. The Further Settlement of Rhode Island: 

The Odyssey of Samuell Gorton 187 

24. Rhode Island in the 1650s: 

Roger Williams' Shift from Liberty 200 

25. The Planting of Connecticut 208 

26. The Seizure of Northern New England 214 

27. Joint Action in New England: The Pequot War 217 

28. The New England Confederation 220 

29. Suppressing Heresy: Massachusetts Persecutes the Quakers 227 

30. Economics Begins to Dissolve the Theocracy: 

Disintegration of the Fur Monopoly 241 

31. Economics Begins to Dissolve the Theocracy: 

The Failure of Wage and Price Control 244 

32. Mercantilism, Merchants, and "Class Conflict" 250 

33. Economics Begins to Dissolve the Theocracy: 

The Failure of Subsidized Production 253 

34. The Rise of the Fisheries and the Merchants 257 

35. Theocracy Begins to Wither: The Half-Way Covenant 261 

36. The Decline and the Rigors of Plymouth 263 

37. The Restoration Crisis in New England 267 

Part IV— The Rise and Fall of New Netherland 281 

38. The Formation of New Netherland 283 

39. Governors and Government 288 

40. The Dutch and New Sweden 301 

41. New Netherland Persecutes the Quakers 308 

42. The Fall and Breakup of New Netherland 311 

PART V — The Northern Colonies in the Last Quarter 

of the Seventeenth Century 319 

43. The Northern Colonies, 1666-1675 321 

44. The Beginning of Andros' Rule in New York 328 

45. Further Decline of the Massachusetts Theocracy 331 

46. King Philip's War 334 

47. The Crown Begins the Takeover of New England, 

1676-1679 345 

48. The Crown Takes over New Hampshire, 1680-1685 351 

49. Edward Randolph Versus Massachusetts, 1680-1684 357 

50. The Re-Opening of the Narragansett Claims, 1679-1683 363 

51. The Rule of Joseph Dudley and the Council of New England 365 

52. New York, 1676-1686 370 

53. Turmoil in East New Jersey, 1678-1686 380 

54. The Development of West New Jersey 387 

55. "The Holy Experiment": The Founding of Pennsylvania, 
1681-1690 392 

56. The Dominion of New England 402 

57. The Glorious Revolution in the Northern Colonies, 

1689-1690 413 

58. The Glorious Revolution in the Northern Colonies, 

1690-1692 428 

59. Aftermath in the 1690s: The Salem Witch-Hunt and 

Stoughton s Rise to Power 442 

60. The Liberalism of Lord Bellomont in the Royal Colonies 454 

61. The Aftermath of Bellomont 461 

62. Rhode Island and Connecticut After the Glorious 

Revolution 468 

63. The Unification of the Jerseys 474 

64. Government Returns to Pennsylvania 485 

65. The Colonies in the First Decade of the Eighteenth Century 497 

Bibliographical Essay 502 

Volume 2 

"Salutary Neglect": The American Colonies in the 

First Half of the Eighteenth Century 509 


The Colonies in the Eighteenth Century 511 

PART I — Developments in the Separate Colonies 513 

1 . Liberalism in Massachusetts 515 

2. Presbyterian Connecticut 523 

3. Libertarianism in Rhode Island 524 

4. Land Tenure and Land Allocation in New England 526 

5. New Hampshire Breaks Free 530 

6. The Narragansett Planters 532 

7. New York Land Monopoly 534 

8. Slavery in New York 542 

9. Land Conflicts in New Jersey 545 

10. The Ulster Scots 551 

11. The Pennsylvania Germans 555 

12. Pennsylvania: Quakers and Indians 557 

13. The Emergence of Benjamin Franklin 562 

14. The Paxton Boys 571 

15. The Virginia Land System 574 

16. The Virginia Political Structure 578 

17. Virginia Tobacco 581 

18. Slavery in Virginia 584 

19. Indian War in North Carolina 587 

20. The North Carolina Proprietary 589 

21. Royal Government in North Carolina 592 

22. Slavery in South Carolina 595 

23. Proprietary Rule in South Carolina 599 

24. The Land Question in South Carolina 602 

25. Georgia: The "Humanitarian" Colony 605 

PART II — Intercolonial Developments 619 

26. Inflation and the Creation of Paper Money 621 

27. The Communication of Ideas: Postal Service and the 

Freedom of the Press 639 

28. Religious Trends in the Colonies 654 

29. The Great Awakening 657 

30. The Growth of Deism 668 

3 1 . The Quakers and the Abolition of Slavery 672 

32. The Beginning of the Struggle over American Bishops 679 

33. The Growth of Libertarian Thought 684 

PART III — Relations with Britain 697 

34. Assembly Versus Governor 699 

35. Mercantilist Restrictions 703 

36. King George's War 713 

37. Early Phases of the French and Indian War 724 

38. The Persecution of the Acadians 736 

39. Total War 743 

40. The American Colonies and the War 748 

41. Concluding Peace 754 

42. Administering the Conquests 763 

Bibliographical Essay 767 

Volume 3 

Advance to Revolution, 1760-1775 777 

PART I — The British Army and the Western Lands 779 

1. The Stage Is Set 781 

2. The Ohio Lands: Pontiac's Rebellion 783 

3. The Ohio Lands: The Proclamation Line of 1763 788 

4. The British Army and the Grand Design 791 

PART II — Enforcement of Mercantilism 799 

5. Writs of Assistance in Massachusetts 801 

6. The White Pine Act 804 

7. Molasses and the American Revenue Act 805 

8. Reaction in Massachusetts 812 

9. Reaction in Rhode Island and Connecticut 815 

10. Reaction in New York 819 

1 1. Reaction in Pennsylvania 821 

12. Reaction in New Jersey 823 

13. Reaction in the South 824 

14. Enforcement Troubles 826 

1 5. The Newport Case 828 

Part III— Ideology and Religion 833 

16. The Threat of the Anglican Bishops 835 

17. The Parsons' Cause 838 

18. Wilkes and Liberty, 1763-1764 844 

PART IV— Edge of Revolution: The Stamp Act Crisis 851 

19. Passage of the Stamp Act 853 

20. Initial Reaction to the Stamp Act 860 

21. Patrick Henry Intervenes 863 

22. Sam Adams Rallies Boston 866 

23. Rhode Island Responds 874 

24. Response in New York 878 

25. Response in Virginia 880 

26. Response in Connecticut 882 

27. Response in Pennsylvania 884 

28. Response in the Carolinas and Georgia 886 

29. Official Protests 889 

30. The Stamp Act Congress 891 

31. Ignoring the Stamp Tax 894 

32. Government Replaced by the Sons of Liberty 902 

33. Repeal of the Stamp Act 907 

34. Aftermath of Repeal 918 

Part V— The Townshend Crisis, 1766-1770 921 

35. The Mutiny Act 923 

36. The New York Land Revolt 926 

37. Passage of the Townshend Acts 930 

38. The Nonimportation Movement Begins 932 

39. Conflict in Boston 936 

40. Wilkes and Liberty: The Massacre of St. George's Fields 941 

41. British Troops Occupy Boston 945 

42. Nonimportation in the South 948 

43. Rhode Island Joins Nonimportation 952 

44. Boycotting the Importers 954 

45. The Boston Massacre 960 

46. Conflict in New York 967 

47. Wilkes and America 970 

48. Partial Repeal of the Townshend Duties 976 

49. New York Breaks Nonimportation 979 

PART VI— The Regulator Uprisings 989 

50. The South Carolina Regulation 991 

51. The North Carolina Regulation 997 

Part VII— Prelude to Revolution, 1770-1775 1011 

52. The Uneasy Lull, 1770-1772 1013 

53. The Gaspee Incident 1016 

54. The Committees of Correspondence 1019 

55. Tea Launches the Final Crisis 1024 

56. The Boston Tea Party 1029 

57. The Other Colonies Resist Tea 1033 

58. The Coercive Acts 1036 

59. The Quebec Act 1040 

60. Boston Calls for the Solemn League and Covenant 1043 

61. Selecting Delegates to the First Continental Congress 1049 

62. Resistance in Massachusetts 1057 

63. The First Continental Congress 1060 

64. The Continental Association 1065 

65. The Impact on Britain 1075 

66. The Tory Press in America 1079 

67. Massachusetts: Nearing the Final Conflict 1082 

68. Support from Virginia 1087 

69. "The Shot Heard Round the World": 

The Final Conflict Begins 1090 

Part VIII— Other Forces for Revolution 1095 

70. The Expansion of Libertarian Thought 1097 

71. The Vermont Revolution: The Green Mountain Boys 1 104 

72. The Revolutionary Movement: Ideology and Motivation 1114 

Bibliographical Essay 1121 

Volume 4 

The Revolutionary War, 1775-1784 1127 

Part I— The War Begins 1129 

1. Spreading the News of Lexington and Concord 1131 

2. The Response in Britain 1 135 

3. Guerrilla or Conventional War 1 137 

4. The Seizure of Fort Ticonderoga 1 140 

5. The Response of the Continental Congress 1 144 

6. Charles Lee: Champion of Liberty and Guerrilla War 1 148 

7. The Battle of Bunker Hill 1154 

8. Washington Transforms the Army 1 1 57 

9. The Invasion of Canada 1 1 60 

10. Paper Money Financing 1 167 

1 1. The New Postal System 1 170 

12. New York Fumbles in the Crisis 1 172 

PART II — Suppressing the Tories 1 177 

13. The Suppression of Tories Begins 1 179 

14. Suppressing Tories in Rhode Island and Connecticut 1 185 

15. Suppressing Tories in New York 1188 

16. Suppressing Tories in the Middle Colonies 1 192 

17. Virginia Battles Lord Dunmore 1 194 

18. Battling Tories in the South 1 199 

Part III— The War in the First Half of 1776 1203 

19. The British Assault on Charleston 1205 

20. Forcing the British Out of Boston 1208 

21. Privateering and the War at Sea 1211 

22. Commodities, Manufacturing, and Foreign Trade 1215 

23. Getting Aid from France 1223 

24. Polarization in England and the German Response 

to Renting "Hessians" 1229 

PART IV — America Declares Independence 1237 

25. America Polarizes 1239 

26. Forming New Governments: New Hampshire 1244 

27. New England Ready for Independence 1247 

28. The Sudden Emergence of Tom Paine 1249 

29. Massachusetts Turns Conservative 1255 

30. The Drive Toward Independence 1264 

31. The Struggle in Pennsylvania and Delaware 1275 

32. New Jersey and Maryland Follow 1284 

33. Independence Declared 1289 

34. New York Succumbs to Independence 1295 

PART V — The Military History of the Revolution, 

1776-1778 1299 

35. The Invasion of New York 1301 

36. The Campaigns in New Jersey 1309 

37. Planning in the Winter of 1777 1315 

38. Rebellion at Livingston Manor 1318 

39. The Burgoyne Disaster 1321 

40. Howe's Expedition in Pennsylvania 1332 

41. Winter at Valley Forge 1336 

42. The Battle of Monmouth and the Ouster of Lee 1341 

43. Response in Britain and France 1346 

Part VI— The Political History of the United States, 1776-1778 . . . 1355 

44. The Drive for Confederation 1357 

45. The Articles of Confederation 1367 

46. Radicalism Triumphs in Pennsylvania 1371 

47. Struggles Over Other State Governments 1377 

48. The Rise and Decline of Conservatism in New York 1387 

PART VII— The Military History of the Revolution, 1778-1781 .... 1391 

49. The End of the War in the North 1393 

50. The War at Sea 1399 

51. The War in the West 1402 

52. The Southern Strategy 1416 

53. The Invasion of Georgia 1421 

54. The Capture of Charleston 1427 

55. The Emergence of Guerrilla Warfare in South Carolina 1430 

56. Gates Meets the Enemy 1434 

57. The Battle of King's Mountain and the End of the 1780 
Campaign 1438 

58. Greene s Unorthodox Strategy 1442 

59. The Race to the Dan 1446 

60. The Battle of Guilford Courthouse 1449 

61. The Liberation of South Carolina 1452 

62. The Final Battle 1456 

63. After Yorktown in the West 1463 

64. The Response in Britain 1466 

65. Making Peace 1470 

PART VIII — The Political and Economic History of the 

United States, 1778-1784 1481 

66. Land Claims and the Ratification of the Articles 

of Confederation 1483 

67. Inflationary Finance and Price Controls 1487 

68. Conservative Counter-Revolution: Massachusetts and 
Pennsylvania in 1780 1498 

69. Robert Morris and the Conservative Counter- Revolution 

in National Politics, 1780-1782 1502 

70. Robert Morris and the Public Debt 1508 

71. The Drive for a Federal Tariff 1514 

72. The Newburgh Conspiracy 1518 

73. The Fall of Morris and the Emergence of the Order of the 
Cincinnati 1 523 

74. The Western Lands and the Ordinance of 1784 1527 

75. The Republic of Vermont 1 530 

Part IX — The Impact of the Revolution 1535 

76. Oppressing the Tories 1 537 

77. Tory Lands in New York 1543 

78. Elimination of Feudalism and the Beginnings of the 

Abolition of Slavery 1548 

79. Disestablishment and Religious Freedom 1553 

80. Was the American Revolution Radical? 1555 

81. The Impact in Europe 1561 

Bibliographical Essay 1 569 

Index 1577 


What! Another American history book? The reader may be pardoned for 
wondering about the point of another addition to the seemingly inex- 
haustible flow of books and texts on American history. One problem, as 
pointed out in the bibliographical essay at the end of volume I, is that the 
survey studies of American history have squeezed out the actual stuff of his- 
tory, the narrative facts of the important events of the past. With the true 
data of history squeezed out, what we have left are compressed summaries 
and the historians interpretations and judgments of the data. There is noth- 
ing wrong with the historians having such judgments; indeed, without 
them, history would be a meaningless and giant almanac listing dates and 
events with no causal links. But, without the narrative facts, the reader is 
deprived of the data from which he can himself judge the historians inter- 
pretations and evolve interpretations of his own. A major point of this and 
the other volumes is to put the historical narrative back into American his- 

Facts, of course, must be selected and ordered in accordance with judg- 
ments of importance, and such judgments are necessarily tied into the his- 
torian's basic world outlook. My own basic perspective on the history of 
man, and a fortiori on the history of the United States, is to place central 
importance on the great conflict which is eternally waged between Liberty 

The preface in each of the four original volumes was, in large part the same, differ- 
ing only by a couple of paragraphs with information relevant to the story told in that 
particular volume. All of the information has been combined here into one com- 
plete preface. 

and Power, a conflict, by the way, which was seen with crystal clarity by the 
American revolutionaries of the eighteenth century. I see the liberty of the 
individual not only as a great moral good in itself (or, with Lord Acton, as 
the highest political good), but also as the necessary condition for the flow- 
ering of all the other goods that mankind cherishes: moral virtue, civiliza- 
tion, the arts and sciences, economic prosperity. Out of liberty, then, stem 
the glories of civilized life. But liberty has always been threatened by the 
encroachments of power, power which seeks to suppress, control, cripple, 
tax, and exploit the fruits of liberty and production. Power, then, the enemy 
of liberty, is consequently the enemy of all the other goods and fruits of civ- 
ilization that mankind holds dear. And power is almost always centered in 
and focused on that central repository of power and violence: the state. 
With Albert Jay Nock, the twentieth century American political philoso- 
pher, I see history as centrally a race and conflict between "social power" — 
the productive consequence of voluntary interactions among men — and 
state power. In those eras of history when liberty — social power — has man- 
aged to race ahead of state power and control, the country and even 
mankind have flourished. In those eras when state power has managed to 
catch up with or surpass social power, mankind suffers and declines. 

For decades, American historians have quarreled about "conflict" or "con- 
sensus" as the guiding leitmotif o£ the American past. Clearly, I belong in the 
"conflict" rather than the "consensus" camp, with the proviso that I see the 
central conflict as not between classes (social or economic), or between ide- 
ologies, but between Power and Liberty, State and Society. The social or ide- 
ological conflicts have been ancillary to the central one, which concerns: 
Who will control the state, and what power will the state exercise over the 
citizenry? To take a common example from American history, there are in 
my view no inherent conflicts between merchants and farmers in the free 
market. On the contrary, in the market, the sphere of liberty, the interests of 
merchants and farmers are harmonious, with each buying and selling the 
products of the other. Conflicts arise only through the attempts of various 
groups of merchants or farmers to seize control over the machinery of gov- 
ernment and to use it to privilege themselves at the expense of the others. It 
is only through and by state action that "class" conflicts can ever arise. 

Volume 1 is the story of the seventeenth century — the first century of the 
English colonies in North America. It was the century when all but one 
(Georgia) of the original thirteen colonies were founded, in all their dispar- 
ity and diversity. Remarkably enough, this critical period is only brusquely 
treated in the current history textbooks. While the motives of the early 
colonists varied greatly, and their fortunes changed in a shifting and fluctu- 
ating kaleidoscope of liberty and power, all the colonists soon began to take 
on an air of freedom unknown in the mother country. Remote from central 

control, pioneering in a land of relatively few people spread over a space far 
vaster than any other they had ever known, the contentious colonists proved 
to be people who would not suffer power gladly. Attempts at imposing feu- 
dalism on, or rather transferring it to, the American colonies had all failed. 
By the end of the century, the British forging of royal colonies, all with sim- 
ilar political structures, could occur only with the fearsome knowledge that 
the colonists could and would rebel against unwanted power at the drop of 
a tax or a quitrent. If the late seventeenth-century Virginia Rebel Nathaniel 
Bacon was not exactly the "Torchbearer of the Revolution," then this term 
might apply to the other feisty and rambunctious Americans throughout the 

Volume 2 is the history of the American colonies in the first half of the 
eighteenth century. It is generally dismissed in the history texts as a quiet 
period too uneventful to contemplate. But it was far from quiet, for the 
seeds were germinating that would soon blossom into the American Revo- 
lution. At the beginning of the century, the British government believed that 
it had successfully brought the previously rebellious colonists to heel: royally 
appointed governors would run the separate colonies, and mercantilist laws 
would control and confine American trade and production for the benefit 
of British merchants and manufacturers. But this control was not to be, and, 
for most of this period, the colonies found themselves to be virtually inde- 
pendent. Using their power of the purse, and their support among the bulk 
of the population, the colonial Assemblies were, gradually but surely, able to 
wrest almost complete power over their affairs from the supposedly all- 
power governors. And, furthermore, as a result of the classical liberal policies 
of "salutary neglect" imposed against the wishes of the remainder of the 
British government by Robert Walpole and the Duke of Newcastle, the 
Americans happily discovered that the mercantilist restrictions were simply 
not being enforced. Strengthening their spirit of rebellious independence, 
the colonists eagerly and widely imbibed the writings of English libertarians, 
writings which inculcated in them a healthy spirit of deep suspicion of the 
designs of all government — the English government in particular — on their 
rights and liberties. Consequently, when after midcentury the English, hav- 
ing deposed Walpole and Newcastle and ousted the French from North 
America, determined to reimpose their original designs for control, the 
Americans would not stand for it. And the great conflict with the mother 
country got under way. 

Volume 3 deals with the stormy and fateful period from the end of the 
French and Indian War until the outbreak of war at Lexington and Con- 
cord in 1775, the period that incubated the American Revolution. With 
France driven from the North American continent, and with the classical 
liberal Whigs out of power, the British government moved quickly to 

impose a system of imperial control over the fractious and hitherto virtually 
independent colonies. These fifteen years are a record of mounting Ameri- 
can resistance to such efforts by the mother country, a resistance that finally 
erupted into full-scale war at Lexington and Concord. Inspired by libertar- 
ian ideals, the colonists increasingly forged a unity that was to result in the 
first successful national revolution against Western imperialism in the mod- 
ern world. Although other, largely unrelated, armed rebellions also erupted 
in this period — North Carolina, South Carolina, New York, and Ver- 
mont — these years are essentially the story of the development of the Amer- 
ican Revolution up to the outbreak of actual armed conflict. 

Volume 4 deals with the exciting events of the American Revolution, per- 
haps the most fateful years in American history. While the military history 
of the war necessarily takes first rank, it is not simply a recital of the battles; 
intertwined with the tactics and the strategy of the war were ideological 
conflicts over how the war should be fought, and what sort of government 
and society should emerge after the war was over. In particular, important 
light is shed on both the battles and the military strategy of the war by incor- 
porating the latest historical researches applying what we now know about 
the importance of guerrilla vis-a-vis conventional interstate warfare for the 
waging of a revolutionary armed struggle. The military histories of the Rev- 
olution written before the 1960s are hopelessly inadequate because they fail 
to grasp this vital dimension in explaining the course of the fighting. 

In addition to the history of the warfare itself, volume 4 discusses the 
political history of the period, in particular the conflicts over the kinds of 
state governments to be constructed, and the drive of the Nationalists for a 
strong central government. This period culminates in the adoption of the 
Articles of Confederation and in the rise to power of Robert Morris. Also 
discussed are the oft-neglected financial history of the war, the ruinous infla- 
tion and price controls, and the political- financial manipulations of Morris 
and his associates. The this volume also deals with the Western lands ques- 
tion, which will take on fateful importance in the nineteenth century; it 
concludes by assessing the impact of the Revolution on America and 
Europe, and by asking the question: was the Revolution truly radical? 

My intellectual debts for Conceived in Liberty are simply too numerous to 
mention, especially since an historian must bring to bear not only his own 
discipline but also his knowledge of economics, of political philosophy, and 
of mankind in general. Here I would just like to mention, for his methodol- 
ogy of history, Ludwig von Mises, especially his much neglected volume, 
Theory and History, and Lord Acton, for his emphasis on the grievously 
overlooked moral dimension. For his political philosophy and general out- 
look on American history, Albert Jay Nock, particularly his Our Enemy the 

As for my personal debts, I am happy to be more specific. This series of 
volumes would never have been attempted, much less seen the light of day, 
without the inspiration, encouragement, and support provided by Kenneth 
S. Templeton, Jr., now of the Liberty Fund, Indianapolis, Indiana. I hope 
that he won't be overly disappointed with these volumes. I am grateful to the 
Foundation for Foreign Affairs, Chicago, for enabling me to work full time 
on the volumes, and to Dr. David S. Collier of the Foundation for his help 
and efficient administration. Others who have helped with ideas and aid in 
various stages of the manuscript are Charles G. Koch and George Pearson of 
Wichita, Kansas, and Robert D. Kephart of Kephart of Libertarian Review 
and Communications, Inc., Alexandria, Virginia. 

Historians Robert E. Brown of Michigan State University and Forrest 
McDonald of Wayne State University were kind enough to read the entire 
manuscript and offer helpful suggestions even though it soon became clear 
to them and to myself that our fundamental disagreements tended to out- 
weigh our agreements. 

To my first mentor in the field of American history, Joseph Dorfman, now 
Professor Emeritus at Columbia University, I owe in particular the rigorous 
training that is typical of that keen and thorough scholar. 

The last chapter in volume 3 was included at the suggestion of Roy A. 
Childs, Jr. of New York City. 

But my greatest debt is to Leonard P. Liggio, editor of The Literature of 
Liberty, San Francisco, whose truly phenomenal breadth of knowledge and 
insight into numerous fields and areas of history are an inspiration to all 
who know him. Liggio s help was indispensable in the writing of volumes 1, 
2, and 3 in particular his knowledge of the European background. 

Over the years in which this manuscript took shape, I was fortunate in 
having several congenial typists — in particular, Willette Murphy Klausner 
of Los Angeles, and now distinguished intellectual historian and social 
philosopher, Dr. Ronald Hamowy of the University of Alberta. I would par- 
ticularly like to thank Louise Williams and Joanne Ebeling of New City for 
their often heroic services in typing this manuscript. 

The responsibility for the final product is, of course, wholly my own. 

Murray N. Rothbard 

Volume 1 

A New Land, A New People: 
The American Colonies in 
the Seventeenth Century 

Whenever the legislators endeavour to take away and destroy the 
property of the people, or to reduce them to slavery under arbitrary 
power, they put themselves into a state of war with the people, who 
are thereupon absolved from any farther obedience, and are left to 
the common refuge which God bath provided for all men against 
force and violence. 

John Locke 

Part I 

Europe, England, and the 
New World 


Europe at the Dawn 
of the Modern Era 

Until the close of the Middle Ages at the end of the fifteenth century, 
the Americas remained outside the ken of Western civilization. The 
Americas had been "discovered" and settled as many as ten thousand 
years before, by tribes crossing over from Asia on what was then a land 
bridge across the Bering Strait. By the late fifteenth century, one million 
of these "American Indians" lived north of Mexico alone, in diverse 
cultures and tribes scattered throughout the continent. As recently as 
the end of the tenth century, Norsemen, the great seamen of Scandi- 
navia, spread across the North Atlantic and planted a settlement in 
Greenland. From there, the Viking Leif Ericson explored and settled 
"Vinland" — somewhere on the northeast coast of North America — about 
the year A.D. 1000, Norse objects dating from the mid-fourteenth cen- 
tury have been found in North Central America. But these sporadic con- 
tacts made no imprint on history, for the New World had not yet been 
brought into any continuing economic or social relation with the Western 
world: hence, its existence was not even known beyond the narrow cir- 
cle of those few who, like the Norsemen, had actually been there. The 
same holds true for the possibility that French fishermen were already 
making use of the abundantly stocked waters off Newfoundland by the 
late fifteenth century. In neither case was Europe really made cogni- 
zant of the new lands. 

Western Europe, during the early Middle Ages, was a stagnant and 
war-torn region, burdened by feudalism, a hierarchical rule based on 
assumed and conquered land titles, and on the virtual enslavement of 
the peasantry, who worked as serfs in support of the ruling castes. A great 

revival during the eleventh century, inaugurating the High Middle Ages, 
was based upon the rise of trade between Italian towns that had remained 
relatively free of feudal restrictions, and the commercial centers of the 
eastern Mediterranean. The revival of industry and trade and the con- 
comitant growth in living standards provided the necessary economic 
base for a flowering of learning and culture. The emerging commercial 
capitalism and growing civilization soon developed most intensively 
in the city-states of northern Italy, the centers of the vital Mediterranean 
trade with the East. 

It was this "international trade" that began to break up the isolated, 
local self-sufficiency at subsistence levels that had characterized feudal 
Western Europe. The local feudal manor could no longer be a stagnant, 
self-sufficient, agricultural, and "domestic-industry" unit if it wished to 
purchase the products of the Middle East and especially of the Orient. 
The Orient furnished luxury goods of all kinds — silks, damasks, jewels, dyes, 
tropical fruits — but its great contribution was spices, the preeminent 
commodity in Mediterranean trade. Spices not only enhanced the taste 
of food, but also preserved it. For in those days, before refrigeration, 
spices were the only way to preserve food for any length of time. 

The Oriental commodities were produced in China, India, Ceylon, 
or the East Indies, and transported by Muslim merchants — Indian and 
Arab — to the ports of the Middle East and the shores of the Eastern Med- 
iterranean, where northern Italian merchants took over to transport 
the goods to Western Europe. Sales were then made, often by German 
merchants, at such places as the great "fairs," notably the fairs of Cham- 
pagne in northeastern France. Thus, pepper, by far the most important 
of the spices, was largely grown on the Malabar Coast of India, and from 
there taken to the eastern Mediterranean and thence to Europe. In ex- 
change for these products from the East, Western Europe exported timber, 
metals, and especially woolen textiles, which had become its major 
commodity for export. From the late eleventh century, England became 
the major European supplier of raw wool, because of its advantages of 
soil and climate, as well as the advanced scientific management of 
its monastic sheep ranches. The English wool was then exported to Flan- 
ders for weaving into cloth. The cloth was exchanged for spices at the great 
fairs of Champagne, and then carried by the Italian merchants to sell 
in the Middle East. 

Three main routes connected the West with the Orient. One was 
a virtually all-sea route from China, India, Malaya, and the rest of the 
Orient to the Red Sea, and thence up to Cairo and Alexandria. A second 
went up the Persian Gulf to Baghdad, and thence overland to Antioch 
or to various cities of the eastern Mediterranean. The third, a northerly 
route, traveled overland by caravan from North China westward to the 
Caspian and Black seas. This last route was made possible in the thir- 
teenth century by the establishment of Mongol rule over this vast trading 

area. In all of this trade, the northern Italians, as we have indicated, 
were predominant in Europe; they were the great merchants, shippers, 
and bankers of the Western world. 

In the mid-fourteenth century, a severe blow was struck at this vital 
pattern of European trade with the Orient. This blow was the general 
collapse of Mongol rule in Asia. The end of Mongol rule in Persia de- 
stroyed the freedom of Italian — especially Genoese — traders in that critical 
terminus of the overland route. And the liquidation of Mongol rule in 
China ended Mongol friendliness to Western trade, which had permitted 
both commerce and cultural contact with the West; thereafter, tradi- 
tional Chinese suspicion of foreigners reasserted itself. The consequent 
forced closing of the overland route doubled the price of silks in Europe. 

Ordinarily one would have expected the Mongol collapse and the 
closing of the overland route to spur a search by northern Italians — espe- 
cially the Genoese — for an all-sea route to the Orient. Indeed, Genoese 
captains by the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries had already 
sailed through the Strait of Gibraltar and south along the western coast 
of Africa in search of new spice routes, and had already discovered the 
Canary and Madeira islands. But a cataclysmic set of changes at the 
turn of the fourteenth century was to divert attention from such sea 
exploration and drastically alter the pattern of European production and 

The expansion of medieval production and trade and the concomitant 
cultural progress of Europe came to an abrupt halt at the beginning of the 
fourteenth century. As wealth and capital continued to accumulate in 
Western Europe from the eleventh century on, this growing wealth 
provided great temptations to Power to seize and divert that wealth 
for its own nonproductive, indeed antiproductive, purposes. This power 
loomed in the emerging nation-states of Western Europe, particularly 
in France and England, which set about to confiscate and drain off the 
wealth of society for the needs and demands of the emerging state. 
Internally, the state siphoned off the wealth to nurture an increasingly 
elaborate and expensive state apparatus; externally, the state used the 
wealth in expensive wars to advance its dynastic power and plunder. 
Furthermore, the states increasingly regulated and intervened in, as 
well as taxed, the market economy of Europe. The several nascent states 
of the modern era ruptured the harmonious and cosmopolitan social and 
economic relations of medieval Europe. A unity in free-market relations 
was sundered and ravaged by the imposed violence and plunder of the gov- 
ernments of the new nation-states. 

Specifically, the new policy of statism of England and France at the 
beginning of the fourteenth century involved first the immediate ex- 
pulsion and confiscation of the wealth of Jewish merchants, Italian bank- 
ers, and vital independent financial institutions, such as the crucial fairs 
of Champagne. For the longer run, the monies necessary to support 

the state apparatus and army were derived from privileges and 
monopolies granted by governments to associations of merchants 
and craftsmen who aided in the collection of taxes, in return for the 
assurance of profits by excluding native and foreign competitors. The 
consumer was completely sacrificed to that producer who proved the 
best help in the collection of taxes, and incentives for initiative, inex- 
pensiveness of product, and technical progress were destroyed. Detailed 
regulations and controls were established by government-privileged 
guilds to assure the collection of taxes and to prevent competition from 
more efficient producers within and without the guild monopoly. As 
a result of the growth and development of warfare, the state apparatus, 
monopoly, and taxation, the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries in 
Europe were marked by stagnation, depression, and even retrogression. 

Not only were there no further expansion in the scope of international 
trade and no increase in the volume of commerce, but this trade was 
forced to take far different directions. The commercial centers of Italy — 
the northern cities — remained relatively free of restrictions of monopoly 
and the state apparatus, and Italian capitalists now sought a commerce 
free from control by the regulations and taxation of governments. The 
crucial problem of the capitalists was the loss of their overland trade route 
to northern France, brought about by the destruction of the great fairs 
of Champagne, by the taxation and controls of the French king. The Italian 
merchants therefore had to find an efficient route to Flanders, the source 
of European cloth. The only alternative for the carrying of large quanti- 
ties of goods was the sea, and it was natural for Venice and Genoa to 
turn to the sea as the best means of transportation from the Mediterra- 
nean to Flanders. The first Atlantic convoys of ships to Flanders were sent 
from Venice and Genoa about 1314; they sailed through the Strait of Gib- 
raltar and along the Atlantic coast of Europe to the English Channel port 
of Southampton, in England, then on to Bruges, in Flanders. 

Bruges now became the great center of northern European commerce; 
it served as the northern depot of Italian trade, even as it had been the 
western terminus of North Sea and Baltic trade, a trade which now 
received a great impetus for growth. During the Middle Ages cities were 
founded along the coast of the Baltic Sea as the German people colonized 
eastward. These German cities engaged in trade along the North or 
German Sea, as well as the East or Baltic Sea. For the mutual defense 
of their trade they formed a confederation of cities called the Hanseatic 
League. From the Hanseatic western depots, Bruges and the Steelyard 
in London, the trade of the League extended through the German and 
Scandinavian countries to the Slavic countries of the eastern Baltic, 
terminating in the great northern Russian commercial center, the in- 
dependent Republic of Great Novgorod. The trade of the Hansards, or Eas- 
terlings (from which the English measure of silver, the pound sterling, 
is derived), as the Hanseatic merchants were called, was largely in raw 

materials and agricultural products. The foundation of Hanseatic com- 
merce was its dominance of the Baltic trade in dried and salted fish, a nec- 
essary part of the European diet because of the scarcity of meat and the 
needs of religious observance. Search for the salt necessary for curing the 
fish had led the Hanseatic traders to Bordeaux on the Atlantic coast of 
France, the major source of salt. Bordeaux wine also accompanied the salt 
to northern Europe. The Bordeaux trade increased the importance of Eng- 
land in European commerce, as Bordeaux and the province of Gascony had 
been English possessions since the middle of the twelfth century. For the 
spices and manufactured goods that the Hansards carried to the Baltic from 
Bruges, they supplied the industrial centers of Western Europe with the 
dried and salted fish of the Baltic, the grain of Prussia and Poland, the tim- 
ber of Scandinavia, and the furs, wax, and honey of the Russian forests. 
The closest to a luxury product for the Hansards was the important fur trade. 
Fur, because of its rarity and beauty, had become a symbol of social and polit- 
ical importance. The only form of fur sufficiently inexpensive to be avail- 
able to the masses was hats processed from beaver — the most popular form 
of headwear. The Russian Republic of Great Novgorod built its greatness by 
controlling the fur trade with the Finnish peoples who inhabited the forests 
of northern Russia, and the Hanseatic League controlled the distribution of 
furs across Europe from Novgorod to the Steelyard in London. 

Wool, the principal product of English agriculture, entered Hanseatic 
and Italian trade mainly through the cloth woven in Flanders. Poundage, 
the tariff on the export of wool and the import of cloth, was the principal 
tax imposed by the English government in the process of state formation. 
Poundage was permanently established by the fourteenth century, even 
though it was contrary to the provisions of Magna Carta. The newly bur- 
geoning state apparatus was maintained by this tax on wool exports, 
and the rates increased as England's financial crisis of the fourteenth 
and fifteenth centuries continued to intensify. This continuing crisis 
was brought about by the English government's persistent interventions 
in overseas wars. To ensure collection of taxes on wool exports, the English 
government granted a monopoly of the export of wool to a group of mer- 
chants, drawn from the importing and exporting centers. In return for 
the monopoly profits gained from this privilege, the merchants would 
enforce and collect the tariffs and ensure their payment to the govern- 
ment. "The mayor, constables, and fellowship of the merchants of the 
staple of England" received the monopoly of wool export to the Continent 
in the mid-fourteenth century, after a succession of ill-starred attempts 
to grant the monopoly to smaller groups of merchants. It was the first 
lasting organization of English foreign trade monopoly. 

The Merchants of the Staple proceeded to use their monopoly privilege 
in the time-honored manner of monopoly: by moving to jack up their 
selling prices and to lower their buying prices. Such procedure ensured 
their profit, but also eventually crippled the great English wool trade by 

reducing the demand for wool and by discouraging the production of wool 
at home. But the free market also has a time-honored way of fighting 
back against restrictions: by evading them. Despite the restrictions, 
the free trade in wool persisted in the form of smuggling, which the 
government policy had forced upon the merchants. From the late Middle 
Ages through the eighteenth century, England was not so much a nation 
of seafarers and shopkeepers as a nation of smugglers. 

Since Flanders was being carefully watched by the Merchants of the 
Staple, the Dutch Netherlands became the center of the free trade — 
the nontaxed trade in smuggled wool, and the Dutch ship captains 
became the leading carriers and traders in tax-free goods, shipped into 
and out of small harbors along the coasts of England. When the consti- 
tutional procedures of the common law were applied, there could be 
few convictions for smuggling by juries of ordinary people, who shared 
in the common interest as sufferers from taxes and monopoly, and hence 
in the common enthusiasm for smuggling. To circumvent the consti- 
tutional courts of common law, the prerogative High Court of Admiralty 
was established to absorb the jurisdictions of the maritime courts of the 
seaports, which had administered the traditional sea law and law mer- 
chant. A tariff on the importation of wines, called tunnage (the mea- 
sure of a run of wine), was imposed with the excuse that it would finance 
the policing of the seas. The creation of the offices of Lord High Admiral 
and the High Court of Admiralty increased the burdens on commerce, 
while their activities were used by the government to advance the 
claim of an English monopoly over the English Channel and other neigh- 
boring seas. 

Thus, during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, in place of a uni- 
versal economic system based on international trade, common commer- 
cial laws, and efficient economic relationships, unnatural economies 
were created on a foundation of violence and political power. The pur- 
poses were to supply a constantly increasing financial means of support 
for the civil and military apparatus of the state, and to grant special 
privileges for groups of merchants favored by, and sharing in control of, 
the state at the expense of the economy and the rest of the population. 
This mercantilist system, having its origins in the rise of sustained war- 
fare and the development of the state apparatus, also introduced a per- 
manent hostility between countries by its destruction of the universal 
European economy. 

While Western Europe stagnated under the weight of the mercantil- 
ism imposed by the apparatuses of the emerging states, the regions of 
relative freedom — Italy and the areas of the Baltic producing raw mater- 
ial — continued to develop and progress economically. The Italian cities 
were preeminent not only by reason of their merchants, shippers, and 
bankers, but also for their advances in the arts and sciences of 
navigation — in technological inventions and the sciences of astronomy, 


cartography, and geography. In the Middle Ages, the development of 
geography in Europe had centered in Sicily, where a Latin culture had 
been enriched by classical and Byzantine knowledge, directly by Greek 
and indirectly by Arab scholars. To classical geographical knowledge, 
summarized in Ptolemy's second-century Geography, was added knowl- 
edge of Africa and India from Arab sources, and of East Asia from Italian 
travelers. A leading Italian traveler was Marco Polo, a late thirteenth- 
century Venetian merchant who had settled as an official in the Mon- 
gol capital of Peking, and had written the most important book on Asia 
of the late Middle Ages. This new geographic knowledge was incorporated 
into the scientific charts and maps developed by the cartographers of 
the northern Italian cities. The most advanced of which was a 1351 map 
of Laurentian Portolano of Florence. The Arab and Jewish scholarship 
in Spain led, in the latter half of the fourteenth century, to the develop- 
ment of the important Jewish school of geographers on the island of 
Majorca, which produced the most accurate medieval map, the Catalan 
Atlas of 1375. This atlas had a significant influence on future exploration 
both of Africa and of Asia. Ptolemy's Geography had indicated a short 
circumference of the earth, making Asia three times nearer Europe 
than it actually was, and had depicted the African continent as short and 
connected directly to East Asia, making the Indian Ocean an inland sea, 
In 1410, however, Cardinal Pierre d'Ailly wrote Imago Mundi; he in- 
dicated that Africa was long and surrounded by water, thus making the 
Indian Ocean approachable by sea. These works were all to have a profound 
influence on the explorations seeking the routes to Asia around Africa 
and across the Atlantic. 

But before the advanced geographical concepts could guide exploration, 
the necessary ship designs, navigational science, and experience of 
oceanic sailing needed to be developed. The northern Italian merchants 
had been forced to inaugurate the long Mediterranean-Atlantic oceanic 
route in the early fourteenth century, and thus had added oceanic exper- 
ience to their overall stature as the great seamen of Europe. When, 
thereafter, the major Atlantic countries — England, France, Spain, and 
Portugal — decided to create governmental navies, they naturally turned 
to contract with Italian captains to develop, staff, and command these 
navies. The great northern Italian cities of Genoa, Venice, Pisa, and 
Florence were particularly abundant sources of those having experience 
with the sea. Thus, in 1317, Emanuel Pesagno of Genoa contracted to 
command the Portuguese navy as Lord High Admiral and to keep it sup- 
plied with twenty experienced Genoese navigators; these arrangements 
were continued as hereditary contracts with the Pesagno family for 
two centuries. 

In addition to the role that Italian navigators and sailors, astronomers 
and instrument makers, geographers and map makers played in the mari- 
time history of Atlantic Europe, Italians made important contributions 


as ship designers and shipbuilders. The Hanseatic cogs, built in the Baltic, 
were efficient ships for carrying bulky cargoes in the Hanseatic trade. 
Italian ship designers maintained this efficiency, but revolutionized the 
ships' maneuverability and speed; as a result, during the fifteenth cen- 
tury ships became available that could travel long distances at a suitable 
speed on rough oceans. They had large carrying capacities but needed only 
small crews, so that they could remain for a long while at sea without 
stopping regularly to take on provisions. However, as timber supplies 
in the Mediterranean became increasingly scarce, greater reliance was 
placed upon such ships built and even manned in the Atlantic European 

At the same time that the sailors of the Atlantic countries were gaining 
knowledge and experience from oceanic voyages, increasingly higher 
prices of spices in Western Europe encouraged the Atlantic countries 
to find the gold with which to pay for the spices, or to discover better al- 
ternative routes to the Oriental sources of these commodities. Routes 
were also sought that could bypass the Italian middlemen. Hence, when 
Portuguese explorers began to be sent southward along the African 
coast, their immediate and primary objective was to discover the sources 
of the gold of West Africa with which the North African Arabs were plen- 
tifully supplied. 

From 1419 until his death in 1460, most of the exploration of the fif- 
teenth century was organized by Prince Henry the Navigator, governor 
of the southern district of Portugal. Henry accomplished his exploration 
with the aid of a court functioning as a veritable maritime college, in- 
cluding Genoese captains, Venetian navigators, and Italian and Jewish 
geographers. The Madeira Islands were discovered definitely by 1420 
by a Portuguese expedition, and one of the first officials sent there by 
Prince Henry was Bartholomew Perestrella, an Italian and future 
father-in-law of Christopher Columbus. Sugar cane from Sicily was intro- 
duced into Madeira and into the Canary Islands being settled by Spaniards, 
and these islands soon became an important source of sugar for Europe 
until the establishment of sugar culture in Brazil by the Portuguese in 
the sixteenth century. These "Western Islands" also became an impor- 
tant center of the cultivation of sweet wines. 

During the following generation, numerous expeditions made slow 
progress down the coast of Western Sahara, while others discovered and 
settled the Azores in the North Atlantic. In 1441, a few Negro slaves were 
brought back to Portugal, thus beginning the extensive and barbarous slave 
trade. After tropical Africa, 1,500 miles from the Strait of Gibraltar, was 
reached in 1445, large numbers of slaves were purchased from the native 
chiefs of the coastal districts, and slave stations were constructed by the 
Portuguese along the West African coast. Although the Cape Verde Islands 
were discovered in 1445 by a Venetian, Captain Cadamosto, the world of 
Portuguese exploration largely turned to concentration upon commerce in 


gold and local West African pepper, as well as to the slave trade for supplying 
the large feudal estates of southern Portugal, which had been granted by the 
Portuguese government after taking that region from the Moors. 

During the 1470s, explorations under private auspices covered another 
two thousand miles along the coast of the Gulf of Guinea. The Spanish, 
based on the Canaries, began to compete with the Portuguese in the 
Guinea trade, and the warfare resulting from this rivalry was settled by 
treaty in 1480. By this treaty, Spain recognized Portugal's prior rights to 
Africa and the South Atlantic, and Portugal accepted Spanish rights to the 
Canary Islands and the "western seas" beyond the Azores. Thereupon, and 
being hurried by the rumor of an English expedition to West Africa, Portu- 
gal in 1482 commissioned voyages to create a strong fort at Elmina in West 
Africa to defend the trade in gold, pepper, and slaves. Captains for these 
voyages included Bartholomew Diaz and the Genoese Christopher 

A large colony of Genoese captains, pilots, and mapmakers had settled 
in Lisbon during the late fifteenth century, and by 1477 Christopher 
Columbus (1451-1506) was established in Lisbon as a mapmaker with his 
brother Bartholomew. After engaging in the sugar trade from Madeira and 
in the African trade for Genoese firms, Columbus had gained sufficient 
experience in oceanic navigation to propose a plan for a westward voyage 
to the Orient. Columbus had concluded that China and the Orient could 
easily be reached by sailing westward, if Asia were really three thousand 
miles west of Europe, as the geographers had indicated. (Contrary to popu- 
lar myth, the idea that the earth was round was well known to the edu- 
cated Europeans of the day.) The geographical concept of a feasible west- 
ward voyage to the Orient received even wider currency in Europe when 
printed editions appeared of Ptolemy in the 1470s, D'Ailly's Imago Mundi 
in 1483, Marco Polo's Travels in 1485, and Aeneas Sylvius' (Pope Pius II's) 
Historia Return in 1477. Columbus was also encouraged in his project by his 
correspondence with the Florentine scientist Paolo dal Pozzo Toscanelli. 

The Portuguese had meanwhile resumed exploration of Africa south of 
the equator under the command of Diogo Cao, who discovered the Congo 
River in 1483. Upon Cao's return in 1484, the Portuguese prepared for more 
vigorous exploratory activity, the Crown appointing a Junta dos Mathe- 
maticos, composed of Bishop Diogo Ortiz and two Jewish physicians, to 
decide questions of navigation and exploration. Late in 1484, Columbus 
presented his plans to the Junta for a westward voyage to China and 
Japan; however, as Cao was to begin his second expedition, it was hoped 
that he would discover the route to the Indies around Africa, so the Junta 
decided to await Cao's return before accepting Columbus' project. Cao 
promptly extended Portuguese exploration by 1,500 miles, reaching Cape 
Cross in 1486; he also explored the Congo River and established diplomatic 
relations with the ruler of the lower Congo. In the summer of 1487, an 
expedition under Bartholomew Diaz was sent to discover the sea route to 


India; Diaz sailed around the Cape of Good Hope in early 1488, making it 
clear that an ocean passage to the Indies would soon be found. 

Balked by Portugal, Columbus had gone to Spain to seek aid for his pro- 
jected voyage; and although he was well received, Spain too made no 
decision on extending its support. Columbus then renewed his negotia- 
tions with the Portuguese, and returned to Lisbon in late 1488. But when 
Diaz returned to Portugal in December of 1488 with news of his exciting 
discovery, Portugal lost interest in Columbus' plan. Columbus then returned 
to Spain, meanwhile sending his brother Bartholomew to London to 
present his plan to Henry VII of England. After receiving no encourage- 
ment in England, Bartholomew Columbus went to the French court in 
1490, where he received better treatment and remained as a mapmaker. 
When the Spanish court rejected his proposal in 1491, Christopher pre- 
pared to join Bartholomew in France; but Columbus was recalled to the 
Spanish court, partly because its conquest of the Moorish kingdom of 
Granada was completed in January 1492. 

The agreements between Columbus and the Spanish Crown were 
completed in April 1492; they provided for Spanish financing of the bulk 
of expenses of the voyage, as well as for naming Columbus "Admiral of 
the Ocean Sea" and governor of any lands that he might discover en- 
route. On August 3, Columbus departed from Palos in three ships. Sailing 
to the Canaries and then westward, Columbus discovered the Bahama 
Islands on October 12, 1492, and explored the Greater Antilles — Cuba and 
Hispaniola. Columbus was convinced that he had discovered the shores of 
Asia, and so christened the natives he found there "Indians." But de- 
spite his error, the New World was now to be opened to the ambit of 
European society. 

Columbus left America in early January 1493, arrived in the Azores in 
February, and reached Lisbon early in March. Even though Diaz was busy 
supervising construction of the ships necessary for the voyage around 
Africa to India, the Portuguese king had the gall to claim the new lands as 
an extension of the Azores. When Columbus presented his report to the 
Spanish court in mid-March 1493, it sought to protect its claim from 
Portuguese encroachment. On the basis of the discovery and of the treaty 
of 1480, Spain appealed to the pope for a determination of its rights. 

As a neutral third power, the papacy made a diplomatic award, affirm- 
ing Spain's claim to monopoly possession of Columbus' discovery. The 
respective discoveries claimed by Portugal in Africa and Spain in the West 
were protected by drawing a boundary between Spain and Portugal west 
of the Portuguese Azores. The respective routes to the Indies were re- 
cognized by limiting the Spanish to the western and southern route, and 
the Portuguese to their eastern and southern route around Africa. The 
Portuguese considered the papal opinions a useful base for negotiation, 
but refused to be bound by them. To gain Portuguese recognition for its 
claims, the Spanish government was obliged to make concessions to 


Portugal, and in June of 1494 the Treaty of Tordesillas extended the bound- 
ary 270 leagues further westward than in the papal mediation, which 
had the unintended effect of allowing Portugal to control the yet undis- 
covered coast of Brazil. As the dispute was strictly between Spain and 
Portugal, the treaty and boundary related only to the area that they had 
explored, and thus did not receive international recognition by the other 
powers until confirmed by effective occupation of the respective claims. 
Since the Spanish territorial claim was limited to the west and south of 
Columbus' discovery, that is, the West Indies and Central and South 
America, it did not exclude other states from North America, as witness 
the English, Portuguese, and French explorations; there was conflict only 
when they approached the West Indies. 

Meanwhile, in September 1493 Columbus had sailed again to the West 
Indies with 1,500 colonists on board in seventeen ships fitted out by his 
friend, the Florentine merchant of Seville, Gianneto Berardi. After 
exploring the Lesser Antilles, a colony was established in Hispaniola to be 
an agriculturally self-supporting mining town that would supply Spain 
with the much needed gold believed to abound there. After further explor- 
ations, Columbus departed for Spain in March 1496, leaving his brother 
Bartholomew as governor. 

In March 1496 Henry VII of England granted a patent to John Cabot, a 
Genoese captain and merchant lately settled in Bristol, England, who had 
sailed for Venice and Portugal to explore to the west or north, thereby 
indicating that England would not intervene in Spanish or Portuguese 
colonies. Cabot was granted a monopoly of trade to any lands he might 
discover and claim for the Crown, in the profits of which the government 
would share; and Bristol was made a monopoly or "staple" port for all 
voyages to or from the newly explored regions. In May 1497 Cabot and his 
son Sebastian sailed west from Bristol to Asia; they reached Cape Breton 
Island and sailed down the Atlantic coast to perhaps the site of Maine. 
In the spring of 1498 Cabot went to Lisbon and Seville to hire sailors who 
had sailed with Cao, Diaz, or Columbus, and set sail for Japan and the 
Spice Islands in May 1498; he succeeded in exploring the coast of North 
America down to the Delaware Bay or the Chesapeake Bay. Joao Fernan- 
des, called Labrador, a Portuguese who had advised Cabot, received a 
Portuguese patent for northern and western discoveries and explored 
Greenland. From 1501 on, a group of Bristol and Portuguese merchants, 
including Fernandes, explored North America under English patents, 
while several Portuguese, such as the Corte Real brothers, sailed to New- 
foundland in the early sixteenth century. 

The Portuguese, however, were concentrating on the voyage to India 
around Africa for which Diaz had spent almost a decade preparing a fleet. 
In July 1497 the fleet departed, commanded by Vasco da Gama, and 
arrived at the Malabar coast of India in May 1498; it returned to Lisbon 
in September 1499 with a cargo of pepper and cinnamon. The Portuguese 


had finally found their eastern sea route to India. Early in 1500 a second 
expedition under Pedro Cabral was dispatched to India; blown off course, 
Cabral discovered and claimed Brazil for Portugal. In 1501, the Por- 
tuguese spices reached Antwerp, which promptly became the major 
center of spices from Portugal, even as it was then the financial center 
of Europe. 

The Italian merchants were not immediately disturbed at the develop- 
ment of the new spice route, for they considered their competitive position 
assured by their capital, their commercial ability, and the security of their 
established routes. Lacking gold or specialized products, the Portuguese 
were not able to undersell the Arab and Venetian merchants. A major 
Portuguese voyage of 1505 was, in fact, financed by Genoese, Florentine, 
and South German bankers, although the complications of bureaucracy 
led them to provide capital indirectly through investment in "future" 
cargoes. Similarly, Italian merchants and bankers in Spain provided the 
venture capital for exploration and discovery. In 1495, on the death of 
Gianneto Berardi, who had contracted to fit out twelve ships, Amerigo 
Vespucci, a Florentine who was manager of the Medici bank at Seville, 
assumed the contract. In succeeding years, Vespucci sailed in Spanish 
expeditions, and then from 1501 on sailed in Portuguese voyages to explore 
Cabral's discovery, Brazil. Vespucci wrote accounts of his voyages; they 
were immediately printed and received wide circulation. As a result, 
the mapmakers irrevocably attached Amerigo's name to the newly dis- 
covered continents. 

The succession of the Hapsburgs to the Spanish throne in the early six- 
teenth century promptly occasioned investments by South German bank- 
ing houses in Spanish mines and then in American mines. The Fuggers 
leased mines in Hispaniola and Mexico, while the Welsers leased 
Venezuela for twenty years. However, the Italians, expecially the Genoese 
merchants of Seville, dominated Spain's American trade during the six- 
teenth century, importing gold and tropical products into Europe and 
exporting manufactured goods as well as slaves under contracts, or Asientos, 
to America. 

In 1498-1500 and 1502-04, Columbus made two further voyages to 
America, which he still believed to be part of the East Indies. He finally 
reached the American mainland in 1498. Explorations of the interior of 
the mainland were begun in 1513, when Ponce de Leon explored Flor- 
ida, and Vasco de Balboa crossed the Isthmus of Panama to discover the 
Pacific Ocean, which he believed could be easily crossed to reach the 
Spice Islands and the Orient. 

Portuguese entrance into the spice trade had led to mutual hostility 
with the Arab and Indian merchants, for these Muslim traders feared 
the competition afforded by the new sea route. The new route was ex- 
pected to avoid the heavy expense and taxation that had greatly increased 
the cost of the route through the Levant. At the same time, the Portuguese 


feared that they could not compete in the spice trade for lack of capital, 
gold, or specialized products. In 1509, the Portuguese defeated a fleet of 
Arab and Indian Muslims, and, under Alfonso de Albuquerque, estab- 
lished trading centers at Goa on the Malabar Coast and at Malacca in 
Malaya. By 1513, Portuguese trade had extended to the East Indian Spice 
Islands and to Canton in China. Albuquerque's attacks on Muslim shipping 
and markets caused a shortage of spices in Alexandria, while the conquest 
of Egypt in 1517 by the Ottoman Turks temporarily cut off spice supplies 
to Venice. During the second decade of the sixteenth century, most of 
the spices for Europe arrived in Portuguese vessels by way of the Cape 
of Good Hope, and the Venetian merchants were forced to purchase spices 
in Lisbon to supply their customers, Soon, however, Venice reached a trade 
agreement with the Turks, the spice trade of the Levant returned to nor- 
mal, and the Levantine trade in spices and Mediterranean goods re- 
mained larger and more important during the sixteenth century than 
oceanic commerce. The Venetians bought goods of better quality, while 
the expenses of long voyages, shipwrecks, and military forces for Portugal, 
and lack of goods for trading raised prices in the Portuguese trade. 

The Spanish finally reached the East Indies in a voyage under the com- 
mand of Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese mariner who had lived in 
the East Indies. Proposing to follow a westward route around South 
America, Magellan, with a fleet equipped by capital provided by the Fug- 
gers, sailed from Seville in the summer of 1519. He passed through the 
Strait of Magellan, separating South America from Tierra del Fuego, 
the following summer and arrived at the Philippine Islands, where he 
was killed in a native war in April 1521. In September 1522 one ship, 
commanded by Sebastian del Cano, returned to Spain by way of the Cape 
of Good Hope, and thus became the first to circumnavigate the world. 
Meanwhile, in 1519 Hernando Cortez crossed from Cuba to Mexico, and 
by 1521 had conquered the Aztec empire and begun a search for ports for 
trade with the East Indies. In 1532, Francisco Pizarro led an expedition to 
Peru, where, after a number of years, the Inca empire was conquered. In 
1527, Sebastian Cabot was to lead an expedition over Magellan's route to 
the East Indies, but instead explored for gold on the Rio de la Plata in South 
America. During the early 1540s the Spanish explored the southern part of 
North America. In 1539 Hernando de Soto landed in Florida from Cuba and 
traveled along the Gulf Coast and lower Mississippi River, which he dis- 
covered in 1541. At the same time, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado 
traversed the southwestern part of North America up to Kansas, while 
expeditions sailed along the Pacific Coast of California to Oregon in 1 542-43- 

France too undertook active explorations in the New World. In 1524 
the Florentine captain Giovanni da Verrazano explored virtually the en- 
tire east coast of North America. A decade later Jacques Cartier sailed to 
Newfoundland (1534). A second voyage found him exploring the Gulf of 
St. Lawrence and the St. Lawrence River (1535-36), which he thought 


would lead to China. A dubious tradition says he named the falls at 
Montreal, La Chine, a bitter gesture indicative of his failure to reach 
China. A colony was established temporarily by Cartier near Quebec 
in 1541-42, but the Spaniards were the only ones to establish important 
settlements in the New World in the first half of the sixteenth century. 

The pattern of Spanish colonization was based upon conditions in 
Spain in the late Middle Ages. In contrast to Europe generally, where 
aggressions against non-European territories had been checked by the 
growth of Turkish power, the Spanish and the English could still pursue the 
conquest of lands and peoples against the Spanish Arabs of Granada and 
the Celts of Ireland. Thus, the two major land-conquering and colonizing 
powers, Spain and England, preceded their respective transatlantic con- 
quests by the conquest of neighboring peoples — the Moors of Granada 
by Spain in the late fifteenth century, and the Irish by the English, 
particularly during the sixteenth century. In these aggressions both the 
Spanish and the English not only acquired the skills and appetites for fur- 
ther violence, but also established the attitudes and policies to be 
applied to alien peoples through conquest, extermination, or enslavement 

Due to geographical and political conditions, Spain retained the mil- 
itary spirit of feudalism for a longer time than other European 
countries. The arid climate and the frontier wars with the Muslims 
caused the Spanish ruling class to remain essentially horsemen, who in 
place of agriculture emphasized sheep and cattle farming, occupations in 
which horsemen could be utilized and trained for war. This style of life had 
a profound influence on Spanish colonization. The Christian and Muslim 
farmers conquered by the Spanish nobles were kept in feudal serfdom to 
provide foodstuffs for the ruling class, to whom their villages had been 
granted. This feudal system, which had been imposed on the conquered 
lands of Granada and the Canary Islands, was then applied to the larger 
islands of the West Indies and later to Mexico, Venezuela, and Peru. 
The native villages were granted to Spanish conquistadores, who were 
to govern them so as to live upon the work of the natives. The hapless 
natives were compelled to provide food, cotton, and forced labor for build- 
ing the great cities where the Spanish lived and from which they governed, 
and to work for large mining operations of the Spaniards. Alongside 
the agriculture of the Indians, the conquistadores developed the raising 
of sheep, cattle, horses, and mules to provide profits for themselves as well 
as work and plentiful meat for their keepers. Generally the Spanish 
colonists did not pursue productive work; instead they entered government 
and privileged occupations, in which to live from the work of the natives 
whom they enslaved. 

The right to conquer, coercively convert, govern, and enslave the 
natives of the New World was subjected to intense criticism in a series 
of lectures in 1539 at the University of Salamanca by the great Dominican 
scholastic philosopher Francisco de Vitoria. In international law based 


upon the natural law, insisted Vitoria, the native peoples as well as 
European peoples have full equality of rights. No right of conquest by Eu- 
ropeans could result from crimes or errors of the natives, whether they 
be tyranny, murder, religious differences, or rejection of Christianity. 
Having grave doubts of the right of the Spaniards to any government of 
the natives, Vitoria advocated peaceful trade, in justice and in practice, 
as against conquest, enslavement, and political power, whether or not 
the last mentioned were aimed at individual profit, tax revenue, or 
conversion to Christianity. Although the Spanish government prohibited 
further discussion of these questions, the Vitoria lectures influenced the 
New Laws of 1542, which gave greater legal protection to the natives 
in America. 

Nevertheless, there were defenders of imperialism in Spain who 
rejected international law and scholastic individualism and returned 
to the slave theories of the classical authors. Based on the theory of nat- 
ural servitude — that the majority of mankind is inferior and must be 
subdued to government by the ruling class, of course in the interest of 
that majority — these imperial apologists proposed that the natives be 
taught better morals, be converted, and be introduced to the blessings 
of economic development by being divided among the conquistador es, 
for whom they must labor. 

The serfdom of the Indians was most strongly and zealously opposed 
by the Dominican missionary Bishop Bartolome de Las Casas. Tireless 
in working to influence European public opinion against the practices 
of Spanish officials in America, Las Casas argued that all men must have 
freedom so that reason, which naturally inclines men to live together 
in peace, justice, and cooperation, can remain free and unhampered. 
Therefore, concluded Las Casas, even pursuit of the great objective of 
conversion to Christianity cannot be used to violate these rights. Not only 
was all slavery evil, but the natives had a right to live independently of 
European government. The papacy, in 1537, condemned as heretical the 
concept that natives were not rational men or were naturally inferior 
persons. These progressive views were also reflected in the abolition 
of conquistador feudalism in the New Laws of 1542; however, this aboli- 
tion was revoked by the Spanish Crown three years later. 

Political control of the Spanish colonies was first exercised by a com- 
mittee of the Council of Castile, and then from 1524 by the Council of the 
Indies. In the New World, provincial governments were created, with 
the two most important, Mexico and Peru, raised to status of viceroy- 
alties. Economic control of the colonies was vested in the Casa de Con- 
tratacion, instituted in 1503 to license, supervise, and tax merchants, 
goods, and ships engaged in trade in the New World. In 1508 a Bureau 
of Pilots was established under the Casa which advised the Government 
on maritime matters and supervised navigation and navigators; its first 
chief pilot was Amerigo Vespucci, Sebastian Cabot held that office for 


about thirty years, after transferring from English to Spanish service, 
as England's maritime interests had shifted from exploration to the 
development of a governmental navy. 

The shift of English interests from exploration to naval construction 
was reflected in 1510, when the English government began to build a ship- 
yard for making vessels for a navy. In 1512 the controller of the navy 
organized an association of pilots that would provide experienced navi- 
gators for the navy in return for privileges in control of English shipping, 
privileges similar to those granted to the Spanish Bureau of Pilots. With 
the controller of the navy as its first master, that association was chartered 
as "the master, wardens and assistants of the guild of the Trinity." The 
Trinity House Corporation advised the government on maritime affairs 
and controlled navigation and seamen. 

Just as Spain had made Seville the staple port to and from which all co- 
lonial commerce was compulsorily channeled, so Bristol was made the sta- 
ple port for monopolizing English commerce with the New World. Bris- 
tol's experience in colonial trade had begun with the grant of Dublin as 
a colony to the merchants of Bristol when England initiated its occupation 
of Ireland; that experience was enlarged when Bristol's oceanic trade 
to the Iberian countries was extended during the fifteenth century to the 
sugar colonies of Madeira and the Canaries. 

By artifically depressing the price of wool in England and raising it 
abroad from the mid-fourteenth century on, the Merchant Staplers not 
only had greatly injured the growth and export of English wool but had 
also unintentionally spurred the establishment of wool and textile 
manufacturers in England. For woolen manufacturers could now buy 
wool at significantly lower prices than could their competitors abroad. 
This rising cloth industry was organized in country districts and villages, 
where it could be free of the restrictions and the excessively high prices 
and wage rates imposed by the privileged monopolies of the urban guilds. 
Furthermore, the merchants of Bristol were now able to bring to England 
the finer Spanish wool that formed the raw material for the developing 
manufacture of "new drapery," a lighter and less expensive cloth than 
that woven from the heavier English wool. Since the technique of manu- 
facture of the new drapery was new, it did not come under the controls 
and monopolies of the urban guilds, which manufactured the traditional 
heavy cloth. The period of peace from the mid-fifteenth century on wit- 
nessed a rapid increase in population, but the rigid cartel restrictions 
of the urban guilds condemned large numbers to unemployment. Hence 
the expansion to the countryside of both the new-drapery and the tra- 
ditional heavycloth industries of England, Unburdened of guild regulations 
on production, prices, and labor, the new rural woolen cloth industry was 
sufficiently elastic to respond to the demands of large-scale export 
markets for cheap plain cloth, by developing a large-scale organization 
of production forbidden by the guilds. 


From the middle of the fifteenth century, indeed, there had begun 
to occur a great transformation of the entire economy of Western Europe. 
Stagnation and depression proceeded to give way to economic progress, 
as the state-ridden system of protection and regulation broke apart, and 
capital was accumulated and invested outside the controls that had en- 
compassed the economy. In the Netherlands, in particular, a development 
occurred similar to England's: the rapid emergence of a rural cloth 
industry, free of urban guild and municipal regulations and taxation. 
Furthermore, the controls and high taxation of commerce in Bruges drove 
trade to Antwerp, where, free of hampering legislation, privileges, and 
taxes, business was able to organize itself on the basis of a new spirit 
of capitalist progress and economic growth. For a century, Antwerp now 
became the commercial capital of Europe, drawing by its freedom not 
only the traditional trades of English wool and cloth, Baltic grain and tim- 
ber, and luxury goods of the Mediterranean, but also the growing trade 
in spices and sugars of the Indies — East and West. Antwerp became 
the main center of importation not only of English wool, but also of English 
woolen cloth; for woven cloth would be sent to Antwerp for dyeing and 
finishing. As Henri Pirenne has noted: "Never has any other port, at any 
period, enjoyed such worldwide importance, because none has ever been 
so open to all commerce, and, in the full sense of the word, so cosmopolitan. 
Antwerp remained faithful to the liberty which had made her fairs so suc- 
cessful in the fifteenth century. She attracted and welcomed capitalists 
from all parts of Europe, and as their numbers increased so did their op- 
portunities of making a fortune. . . . There was no supervision, no control: 
foreigners did business with other foreigners freely as with the burgesses 
and natives of the country at their daily meetings. Buyers and sellers sought 
one another and came to terms without intermediaries."* 

The rise of Antwerp as the great center of European commerce was com- 
plemented by the growth of the Dutch merchant marine; for the free- 
trading Dutch were the major carriers of goods to and from the unre- 
stricted and progressive port of Antwerp, and were as motivated by the 
spirit of liberty and capitalism as was Antwerp. During the fifteenth 
century, the herring, upon which the Hanseatic trade had been founded, 
migrated from the Baltic to the North Sea and became a cornerstone of 
Dutch commercial development. Holland and Zeeland became the major 
herring fisheries of Europe; they improved the techniques of curing the 
herring and transporting it to all the ports of Europe, while simultaneously 
refining the methods of shipbuilding and fishing. Hence the Dutch were 
able to compete successfully with the Hanseatic traders in the Baltic, 
the North Sea, and the Atlantic, to Bordeaux and Lisbon. 

Too many historians have fallen under the spell of the interpretation of 
the late nineteenth-century German economic historians (for example, 
Schmoller, Bucher, Ehrenberg): that the development of a strong central- 

•Henri Pirenne, A History of Europe (New York: University Books, 1955), pp. 524-25- 


ized nation-state was requisite to the development of capitalism in the 
early modern period. Not only is this thesis refuted by the flourishing of 
commercial capitalism in the Middle Ages in the local and noncentralized 
cities of northern Italy, the Hanseatic League, and the fairs of Cham- 
pagne — not to mention the disastrous economic retrogression imposed by 
the burgeoning statism of the fourteenth century. It is also refuted by the 
outstanding growth of capitalist economy in free, localized Antwerp and 
Holland in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Thus the Dutch came 
to outstrip the rest of Europe while retaining medieval local autonomy 
and eschewing state-building, mercantilism, government participation 
in enterprise — and aggressive war.* 

Despite the rise of rival Dutch shipping, the continued importance of 
the Hanseatic League in the economic life of England was indicated by 
the Treaty of Utrecht (1474), which confirmed the trading privileges of 
the Hansards in England, including the payment of lower duties than the 
English merchants paid. But the accession of the Tudor dynasty to the 
English throne in 1485 marked the beginning of a steady growth of the 
power of the English government. Medieval forms were transformed by 
the Tudors into a more efficient and complete machinery for repression, 
especially in regulating those economic activities that had achieved pros- 
perity by freely evading the government's regulations, controls, and 
taxation. Monopoly rights were granted in 1486 to the Fellowship of the 
Merchant Adventurers of England in all trade to the Netherlands except 
in wool; especially important was the export of cloth to the finishing 
and dyeing centers of the Netherlands. Furthermore, navigation acts re- 
stricted to English ships the importations of wines, in the vain expec- 
tation of thus increasing the number of English sailors and ships 
sufficiently to develop a strong governmental naval force. In 1496 the 
English government negotiated with the government of the Netherlands 
the Great Commercial Treaty (Intercursus Magnus), which provided 
favorable commercial conditions for English merchants at Antwerp. The 
important contribution of the Intercursus Magnus to international law 
was to recognize the freedom of English and Dutch fishermen on the high 
seas, especially on the North Sea, which had become the major European 
fishing area. The fishermen were to be free to fish anywhere and to use 
the ports of either country in an emergency. For a century and a half, the 
Intercursus Magnus remained the foundation of Anglo-Dutch commercial 
and maritime relations. However, by an act of 1497 the English govern- 
ment implemented its treaty power to monopolize and control trade to 
other countries; specifically, the act excluded English competitors of the 
Merchant Adventurers from the Netherlands trade by granting that com- 
pany a monopoly in the trade with Antwerp. The cloth trade to the 
Netherlands now became the privileged monopoly of a limited number of 

*See Jelle C Riemersma, "Economic Enterprise and Political Powers After the Reforma- 
tion," Economic Development and Cultural Change (July 1955), pp. 297-308. 


London merchants, who came more and more to have the closest fiscal 
relationships with the state through loans at favorable terms to the 

For more effective enforcement of government power under the 
Tudors, executive power was exercised by a specially selected group of 
government advisers that, because it met in secret, was called the Privy 
Council. The Privy Council acted by means of fiat proclamations rather 
than by legislation of Parliament. Judicial power was granted to the Court 
of Star Chamber, a prerogative court that tried the violations of the proc- 
lamations by the mere force and whim of government rather than by 
the traditional common law, which guaranteed the rights of the people. 
Defending the government from the criticisms of the people (called 
libels), from conspiracy and riots (that is, any gathering protesting the 
oppressions of the government), and from infractions of its coinage, the 
Star Chamber was notorious for the imposition of ruinous fines, cruel 
imprisonment, whippings, brandings, and mutilations of those who came 
under its aegis. To aid its work, the Tudor Government had set aside the 
common-law prohibition of the use of torture. 

The Tudors also introduced the first permanent state military force in 
England, as they had established the foundation for a governmental navy. 
Military force was most generally used to subject the Irish to English rule. 
Poynings' Law (1495), which established the model for the control of 
colonies by the English government, extended to Ireland the repressive 
and absolutist measures current in England, and required all legislation in 
the Irish Parliament to receive prior approval from the Privy Council in 
England. When, a century and more later, England acquired transatlantic 
territories and Englishmen fled there to escape the economic effects of 
mercantilism or the repressions of the Privy Council, the Star Chamber, 
or prerogative will, it was the English subjugation and domination of 
Ireland that furnished the earliest precedents and models for attempted 
imperial control of the peoples in America. 

During the sixteenth century a principal office developed in the Tudor 
government that would later have the greatest importance for the English 
colonies in America. This was the secretary of state, a title of Spanish 
origin, indicating some of the strong political and cultural influence de- 
rived from England's commercial and diplomatic relations with Spain. By 
1540, there were two secretaries of state, each of whom had full authority 
to act on a wide range of matters dealing with the king and his officials 
and the king and foreign governments. The secretaries of state became 
responsible for the expanding areas that the Privy Council took under its 
jurisdiction: judicial matters, internal government, taxation and economic 
controls, leadership of the houses of Parliament, military and naval affairs, 
foreign affairs, and, finally, colonial affairs, when England acquired and 
governed colonies. 

During the first half of the sixteenth century, while the English govern- 


ment was neglecting the New World for state-building and navy-building, 
English fishermen quietly but regularly began to enjoy the abundant fish- 
ing in the waters off Newfoundland. Fishing ships put out from west 
country ports, such as Bristol and Plymouth, and then sold the fish in Spain, 
Portugal, and Italy. On their return, these ships carried the goods of the 
Mediterranean to northern Europe; for with the decline, and cessation in 
1532, of the Venetian-Flanders fleets that had been calling in South- 
ampton, English merchants imitated the Dutch and themselves carried 
the trade of Italy, Spain, and Portugal to Antwerp. The Venetian fleets 
could no longer compete in the spice and Atlantic trade because of a grow- 
ing shortage of and therefore a high price for timber in the Adriatic, and 
because Portuguese aggression against Venice's Arab allies at the ports of 
the Persian Gulf cut off its spice routes. Such oceanic voyages, however, 
were not at this time of interest to the English government, which was 
pushing for the building of large ships and the maintenance of fishing 
fleets in the nearby North Sea, where the sailors could be regularly and 
immediately available to be pressed into the navy for military adventures 
in Europe, in alliance with Spain. To this end a navigation act was intro- 
duced in 1540 requiring the use of the larger, more expensive, and less 
efficient ships of the English shipowners and captains instead of the 
smaller, less expensive Dutch ships. However, privileged merchants, such 
as the Merchant Adventurers, in trade with Spain or its possessions (for 
example, Spain and the Netherlands), were exempted and could by em- 
ploying Dutch shipping, gain a competitive advantage over independent 
English merchants. Decreased English participation in the North Sea her- 
ring fishery, caused by the greater efficiency of the Dutch as well as by the 
Reformation, which greatly reduced the religiously based demand for fish 
in England, greatly alarmed the English government. To maintain the 
traditional source of impressment of men into the government's navy, 
a statute of 1549 imposed upon the English a political abstinence from 
meat under penalty of fine, in place of the previous purely religious 

This intensification of mercantilist policy was accelerated by the inter- 
vention of England into the dynastic wars on the Continent in the 1540s. 
To support its military activity, the English government initiated a series 
of great debasements of the currency as a hidden form of taxation of the 
people. The depreciation of the currency made England's goods cheaper to 
foreigners, who were able to purchase more English goods for the same 
amount of money. This taxation by inflation thus called forth an unnatural 
expansion in the production of the export commodities of wool and cloth, 
dislocating the economy both in agriculture and in industry. By 1550 the 
great increase in the costs of production, brought about by the inflation, 
caught up with the fall of the foreign exchange rate, thus ending the arti- 
ficial comparative advantage causing the increased export of cloth. The 
inevitable end to the overexpansion of export industry, stimulated by the 


government's debasement in the 1540s, resulted in a severe depression, 
prolonged during the 1550s by further restrictive and monopolizing eco- 
nomic intervention by the government. Thus Parliament passed laws to 
protect the guild industry and to bring the free rural industry under the 
control of the traditional patterns of regulation and taxation; at the same 
time, the Merchant Adventurers, who were becoming the major tax 
collectors and lenders of money to the government, received a more 
complete monopoly of the export of cloths to Europe. 

The accession of Queen Elizabeth (1558-1603) was followed by the trans- 
formation of piecemeal, unsystematic government interventions, into 
a comprehensive program of restrictions, privileges, and taxes. Elizabeth's 
reign brought to culmination the trend to absolutist government, especially 
noticeable in the exercise of power by the prerogative courts. By the Stat- 
ute of Labourers and Apprentices of 1563, Parliament extended to the 
whole nation the restrictions that had formerly been limited to the urban 
guilds. In order to check and control the free capitalist textile industry based 
on rural labor, the government bound rural workers to agricultural labor and 
extended restrictive seven-year apprenticeship requirements and maxi- 
mum-wage rates to the rural cloth industry. In this way, by crippling the 
free cloth industry, the government moved to confer special privilege on 
two powerful groups: the backward urban guilds, who were being outcom- 
peted by the free and progressive rural cloth makers; and the quasi-feudal 
landlords, who had been losing workers to the higher paying cloth industry. 
To overcome the protections afforded defendants in common-law trials, 
the punishment for violating New Laws was placed by the Privy Council 
into the hands of the prerogative courts, where prisoners could be tortured 
and were deprived of the benefits of trial by jury. The Court of Star Chamber 
also developed censorship to control the reading of the people, and the laws 
of seditious and slanderous libel to protect the government from criticism. 

Under the pressure of the financial crisis and of the control of markets 
by monopoly trading companies, the only possible avenue for the export of 
cloth appeared to be the opening of new areas of trade. As a result there 
was a resumption of English maritime exploration by the merchants 
seeking markets for cloth and sources of raw material. The most successful 
of these attempts began in December of 1551 with the formation of "The 
Mystery and Company of the Merchant Adventurers for discovery of Re- 
gions, Dominions, Islands, and Places Unknown." To it Sebastian Cabot, 
the partner and son of John Cabot and chief pilot of Spain for thirty years, 
was appointed as governor for life. After consideration by the Trinity House 
Corporation, which was empowered to review petitions for charters of ex- 
ploration and trade, the company received its charter. Organized according 
to Italian practice as a joint stock company, it was named the Russia or 
Muscovy Company. The company received a grant of monopoly in 1553 for 
all trade with Russia, Central Asia, and Persia through the White Sea port 
of Archangel. An expedition to Archangel and Moscow returned in 1554 


with permission to sell English cloth and purchase Russian furs plus the 
spices transported along the Volga River from central Asia and Persia. The 
descendants and relatives of the founders of the Muscovy Company were 
important in later explorations, most of which were conducted under the 
auspices of the company. 

The English also looked to Spanish America as a market for the export of 
cloth and the purchase of raw materials. Although Spain maintained a 
system of monopoly trade to the New World, it could not supply large 
quantities of goods at low prices due to the regulations, taxes, and privi- 
leges of the mercantilist system. By the mid-sixteenth century, the silver 
mines of Mexico and Peru were not only contributing greatly to a mone- 
tary inflation in Europe, but also making the Spanish commerce with 
America the most valuable part of transoceanic trade. While Europe had 
difficulty in selling goods in Asia in exchange for spices, and therefore had 
to reexport American silver for spices, it could not supply enough manufac- 
tured goods to Spain for purchasing the silver, hampered as it was by the re- 
strictions, monopoly, and taxation imposed by the Spanish government. 
These restrictions and inefficiencies of the Spanish monopoly greatly en- 
couraged smuggling by ships from other European countries. 

Large amounts of manufactured goods were reexported to the Spanish 
colonies from the Portuguese colony of Brazil, which around the middle of 
the sixteenth century became, by virtue of the absence of restrictions and 
heavy taxes, the major sugar -producing area in the world. Just as the bul- 
lion from America in payment for manufactured goods, and loans on the 
slave trade from West Africa (through which goods were smuggled to the 
West Indies) by the Genoese, now made Antwerp the banking capital of 
Europe, so the sugar trade from Brazil to Portugal by Jewish merchants, and 
from Lisbon to Antwerp by Dutchmen and Portuguese Jews living in the 
Netherlands, made Antwerp the center of the finest and cheapest sugar- 
refining industry in sixteenth-century Europe. The English, like the Portu- 
guese, were able to engage in the illegal trade to the West Indies at re- 
duced risks, because of close diplomatic relations between England and 
Spain. In 1562, Sir John Hawkins of Plymouth, after acquiring 300 slaves in 
West Africa, received permission to sell them in slave-hungry Hispaniola 
and to purchase a valuable cargo of sugar. Hawkins made a second voyage 
in 1564 to sell English cloth. In return for a license to trade in the West 
Indies and promises as to his peaceful trade, Hawkins offered to aid the 
Spanish in destroying the colony established in Florida by the French, who 
were also the leading pirates in the West Indies. 

The Spaniards, however, decided to do this job themselves. In 1564 a group 
of French Huguenots under Rene de Laudonniere settled at the mouth of 
the St. Johns River on the east coast of Florida, and there constructed Fort 
Caroline. The Spaniards, worried about their bullion convoys and the threat 
of buccaneers, and anxious to enforce their claims of monopoly power over 
Florida, sent Pedro Menendez de Aviles from Spain to crush the French. In 


1565 Menendez founded the great base of St. Augustine, the first perma- 
nent city in the Western Hemisphere, and fifty miles south of the French 
settlement. After a French fleet moving against the Spaniards was 
wrecked in a storm, Menendez, heavily outnumbering the French, then 
marched overland and butchered over two-thirds of the settlement, espe- 
cially including prisoners, save for a hundred colonists who managed to es- 
cape to some French vessels in the harbor. Philip II, king of Spain, rejoiced 
at the news: "Say to him [Menendez] that as for those he has killed, he 
has done well; and as for those he has spared, they should be sent to the gal- 
ley [i.e., into slavery]." 

In retaliation, a French nobleman, Dominique de Gourgues, outfitted 
an expedition at his own expense, landed in early 1568 near the fort (now 
renamed San Mateo), and mobilized many Indians who were happy to 
take revenge on the hated Menendez, Gourgues now swept down on the 
Spanish garrison, taking it completely by surprise and conquering it easily. 
The entire Spanish force, prisoners again included, was now in turn put to 
the sword. Although Menendez himself escaped punishment by being ab- 
sent in Spain, Gourgues was able to enforce poetic justice. Menendez had 
hanged several prisoners, publicly posting the notice that they were hang- 
ing as Protestants, not as Frenchmen. Now Gourgues hanged a score of his 
prisoners on the same trees, and posted the sign: "Not as Spaniards, but as 
liars and murderers." 

Due to English intervention into the constitutional and religious strug- 
gle of the Netherlands against Spain, English activity in the West Indies 
tended more and more toward piracy against Spanish shipping. The Eng- 
lish freebooters were encouraged in their piratic attacks by the Crown, 
which participated in the profits of the plundering voyages. Sir John Haw- 
kins and his cousin Francis Drake were defeated at Vera Cruz in 1568, but 
in 1571 and 1573 Drake plundered the Spanish silver depots at Panama. In 
1577-80 Drake dared to circumnavigate the globe; he was the first English- 
man to challenge the concept of the Pacific Ocean as a vast Spanish lake. 
Along the way, Drake plundered Chile and Peru, and purchased tons of 
spices in the East Indies. In 1585 Drake returned to the West Indies; on 
this voyage his fleet plundered Santo Domingo, Cartagena, and St. Augus- 
tine. In 1587, he attacked Lisbon and Cadiz, and in 1588 participated in the 
defeat of the Spanish Armada, which had attempted to retaliate against 
English attacks. This was a victory that brought to England domination 
of the seas. 

Although the distraction of Spanish bullion would continue to complicate 
English colonial activities in the future, the actual settlement of North 
America was founded on the search for trade by the Muscovy Company and 
the extension of land conquest and speculation from Ireland to America. A 
staunch defender of monopoly, special privilege, and the royal prerog- 
ative, Sir Humphrey Gilbert, after serving as an officer in the war of exter- 
mination against the Irish (1566), had proposed to establish English colo- 


nies on the confiscated Irish lands and was appointed governor of southern 
Ireland in 1569. Gilbert emerged as the great leader of the futile quest for a 
northwest passage around North America to the Orient. He published in 
1576 his tract in behalf of this search, Discourse of a Discovery for a New 
Passage to Cataia (i.e., to China). The Muscovy Company, holding a mon- 
opoly privilege for exploration and trade in the Atlantic Ocean north of 
London, desired to find a northwest passage, as well as stations for its 
whaling fleets for the whale oil used in the manufacture of soap. The Mus- 
covy Company thereupon licensed Martin Frobisher, a nephew of one of 
the founders of the company, to explore Greenland and Labrador in search 
of a passage. Frobisher made three fruitless voyages, in 1576, 1577, and 1578. 

Meanwhile, Gilbert perceived corollary possibilities of power and per- 
sonal profit by the colonization of Newfoundland — both in the conquest of 
its fishing grounds and as a base for search for a northwest passage. Prepar- 
ing to petition Queen Elizabeth for a monopoly patent of exploration and 
colonization of North America, Gilbert sought the advice of "Dr." John Dee, 
mathematician, magician, astrologer, and mystic adviser to the queen. 
Dee was much consulted in matters of exploration. To support the petition, 
Dee submitted reports extending previous historical fantasies that the Eng- 
lish Crown possessed the God-given right to North America and to sole 
ownership of all remotely adjacent seas and to all the fish therein. Gil- 
bert received the patent for exploration and colonization in North America 
in 1578. Humphrey Gilbert made several preparatory voyages to Newfound- 
land as did his brother Adrian, his half-brother and freebooter Walter Ral- 
eigh, and his associate John Davis. After further engaging in conquest and 
colonization in Ireland, Gilbert prepared, during 1582-83, another voyage 
for "western planting" in Newfoundland to establish a fishing colony. He 
was lost at sea in 1583. In February 1584 Adrian Gilbert and Walter Raleigh 
were granted a patent for northwest exploration under which John Davis 
made three voyages (1585-88) in a vain quest for a northwest passage, 
while in the following months of 1584, Humphrey Gilbert's monopoly patent 
for North American colonization was renewed in favor of Walter Raleigh. 

Sir Walter Raleigh had been inspired by the Reverend Richard Hakluyt 
concerning colonization of the New World. Hakluyt, a friend of his and 
Gilbert's, had written paeans to the idea of English colonization. Indeed, 
Raleigh commissioned Hakluyt to write Discourse of Western Planting 
(1584), to be submitted to Queen Elizabeth in order to induce her to invest 
money in their colonization schemes. In this work, Hakluyt promised 
virtually every boon to the English establishment — especially to the mer- 
chants and the Crown — markets for its products (especially woolens), raw 
materials for its purchases, furs, timber, and naval stores; outlets for her 
surplus population, and bases from which to loot Spanish shipping. Sir George 
Peckham, an associate of Gilbert and Raleigh, wrote in 1583 — in support 
of Gilbert's project — that a Newfoundland colony would provide a port to 


increase England's fishing fleet, a supply of valuable furs, and a northwest 
passage. But all of Hakluyt's and Peckham's propaganda could not induce 
the queen to loosen her pursestrings. 

The products that Peckham and Hakluyt expected America to produce 
and the trade with foreign countries that they expected American trade 
to replace — these expectations, were not arrived at accidentally. Their pro- 
gram was founded on the experience of the Muscovy Company, which had 
established trading posts on the inhospitable coasts and in the forests of 
Russia. But the project was not described merely to indicate the close com- 
parisons between America and Russia, from whose forests had come furs, 
timber, and naval stores, and over whose routes came the spices and luxu- 
ries of the Orient. Rather, the plan was offered as an alternative to the Rus- 
sian trade that was desperately needed by the London merchants. For 
England's Baltic trade had been crippled by conflicts with the Hanseatic 
League, and the English government had granted to the newly chartered 
Eastland Company a monopoly of exports to the Baltic areas. 

The conflict between the Dutch and the Spanish in the Netherlands had 
brought upon Antwerp a series of calamities that ruined it as the great 
European center of commerce. Moreover, when the king of Spain acceded 
to the Portuguese throne in 1580, the Dutch were eliminated from the vital 
trade in spices from Lisbon, causing a rise in prices. Most important, in the 
1580s the Muscovy Company's trade with Russia suffered crippling blows 
when the Cossacks disrupted the Volga route, by which England had received 
spices from Persia and central Asia, and when Russia lost its Baltic coast, 
including the port of Narva, to Sweden. To regain the spice trade, a group 
of leading merchants of the Muscovy Company formed the Turkey Company 
and the Venice Company in 1581 for direct trade with the Levant in spices 
and Mediterranean goods. Because of wars in the Levant, these compa- 
nies sent English merchants overland to India to establish a direct trade in 
spices. When these merchants returned, the Turkey and Venice compa- 
nies were merged into the Levant Company (1592), with a charter to trade 
with India through the Levant and Persia. 

Having secured his monopoly grant of colonization, Sir Walter Raleigh 
"planted" in 1585 the first English colony in what would later be the 
United States, on Roanoke Island off the coast of present-day North Carolina. 
The area had been first explored by Ralph Lane and Richard Grenville under 
Raleigh's direction the previous year, and was named Virginia in honor 
of England's virgin queen. The new colony had few dedicated settlers, how- 
ever, and the people returned to England twoyeats later. In 1587 still another 
Raleigh expedition, headed by the painter John White, ttied to effect a pet- 
manent settlement of Roanoke Island. Indeed, the first English child born 
in America, Virginia Dare, granddaughter of John White, was bom that sum- 
met at Roanoke Colony. But English interest in and communication with 
the tiny colony was cut off duting the battle with the Spanish Atmada, 


and White, stranded in England, could not return to Roanoke until 1591. 
He could then find no trace of any of the colonists. The first attempt at 
English colonization of America had totally failed. 

If Raleigh and Gilbert had received their inspiration for colonizing 
from such men as Hakluyt, their practical experience had been picked up 
in the course of subduing and enslaving Ireland. After serving in the army 
attempting to impose English rule on Ireland, Gilbert had proposed, in the 
late 1560s, to plant Englishmen in Ulster, as the Irish were forcibly driven 
out. A few years later, Gilbert became governor of Munster in Southern 
Ireland; in the course of "pacifying" the Irish, he drove out Irish peasants and 
replaced them with West Country English. Even as late as 1580, Gilbert 
and Raleigh fought together to suppress the Irish in Munster, and were 
rewarded with sizable grants of land. After the American colonizing 
failures, Raleigh turned his attention back to Ireland. There he planted 
English colonists to grow tobacco on the forty thousand acres of land he had 
been granted in Munster. In 1589 Raleigh, having expended forty thou- 
sand pounds on the American failure and not succeeding in persuading the 
queen to supply more, was happy to sell his patent for North American col- 
onization to a group of associates and London merchants, largely connected 
with the Muscovy Company and including John White, the Reverend Rich- 
ard Hakluyt, and Sir Thomas Smith. Raleigh, however, reserved to himself 
the right of dominion over the prospective colony. 

Leading circles in and around the Muscovy Company had thus resumed 
the monopoly of rights to exploration and colonization of North America, 
which monopoly they had briefly held a decade earlier. But now they had a 
far greater incentive to pursue their grant to try to find compensation for 
the upheavals of the spice and Baltic trade, and of Antwerp, during the 1580s. 
Consideration was therefore given to establishing a sea trade direct to the 
East Indies by English and Dutch merchants. Thomas Cavendish, who had 
served on the Raleigh voyage to America in 1585, had sailed around the world 
during 1585-88 and had returned with a cargo of spices. The war with Spain 
now completely cut England off from the Levant spice trade, and in 1589 
the London merchants received permission from the Privy Council to send 
three ships to the East Indies, carrying silver out of the country to pay for 
spices. Cavendish and John Davis, another old associate of Raleigh, made 
an unsuccessful attempt to circumnavigate the world. James Lancaster, 
who had been a merchant in Lisbon, was in 1591 dispatched with three ships 
to India; he returned in 1594 with one ship and a cargo of spices. In 1593 
the Muscovy and Levant companies moved to the fore, sending George 
Weymouth to search for a northwest passage to India along the coast of 
North America. 

The Dutch began in 1594 to form companies for distant voyages around 
Africa to India. Their first fleet returned in 1597, thereby giving a new im- 
petus to the activity of English merchants. In 1598 alone, Dutch companies 


sent five fleets, totaling twenty-two ships, to the Indies; John Davis was 
the chief pilot of the Zeeland fleet. By 1601 over a dozen Dutch fleets of al- 
most seventy ships had sailed for the East Indies. Because of renewed Eng- 
lish voyages and conflicts with the Portuguese, the Dutch merchants forming 
the companies that had sent the ships to the East Indies began to amalga- 
mate them, and in March 1602 all the Dutch companies merged into the 
United East India Company. 

In September 1599, London merchants belonging to various trading 
companies, especially the Levant Company, formed an association on the 
model of the successful Dutch companies and petitioned the government 
to charter a company of London merchants having a monopoly of trade by 
sea to the East Indies. The charter to the East India Company was granted 
on December 31, 1600, under the title of the "The Governor, and Company 
of Merchants of London Trading into the East Indies"; the Levant Company 
was granted a new charter to distinguish the monopoly areas of the two com- 
panies. The governor named in the charter of the East India Company was 
Sir Thomas Smith (or Smythe). Smith's grandfather, Andrew Judd, had been 
a principal founder of the Muscovy Company. His father had preceded him as 
a leading tax collector, and had been a key royal official in erecting the edi- 
fice of royal absolutism, high taxation, and economic restrictionism during 
the Elizabethan era. Smith was governor also of the Muscovy Company and 
the Levant Company, of which he was a founder, and was also the principal 
member of the group of London merchants to whom Raleigh had in 1589 
assigned his patent for American colonization. Indeed, Smith was the gov- 
ernor of every one of England's privileged companies then interested in for- 
eign commerce and colonization. Smith has been referred to as the great- 
est "merchant-prince" of his era, but it is clear that his status and wealth 
arose not from private trade, but from the governmental privileges of tax- 
farming and grants of monopoly. 

The first voyage of the East India Company went out under the direction 
of James Lancaster and John Davis in 1601, and was followed the next year 
by George Weymouth's second voyage along the coast of North America, 
sponsored by the East India and Muscovy companies. Meanwhile, Sir Walter 
Raleigh resumed his interest in the New World in 1602, sending out another 
futile expedition to search for survivors of the Roanoke Colony. But in the 
following year, Raleigh's colonizing activities were unceremoniously cut 
short by the accession of King James I to the throne of England. One of James' 
first acts was to consign Raleigh to an indefinite imprisonment in the Tower 
and abruptly to vacate his dominion over Virginia. Among the king's mo- 
tives was the desire to give Spain a tangible token of the new king's wish 
to conclude peace between the two warring countries. For Raleigh was now 
perhaps the most ardent warmonger and plunderer against Spanish shipping 
and whose colonizing activities sought bases for aggression against Spain; 
his incarceration was therefore a particularly apt token of peace between 


the two nations. Indeed, peace was concluded the next year, in August 
1604, after which King James cracked down on the formerly lionized cap- 
tains of piracy and freebooting. 

The Treaty of London of 1604 provided for freedom of commerce between 
England and Spain as it had existed prior to the war. Since England had had 
the right to sail to Spain and Portugal, England now claimed that its ships 
could sail to the East and West Indies as well. Spanish America was the 
source of tobacco, and its use in England increased greatly once trade was 
reestablished on a regular basis, even though James disapproved of its use 
as a poisonous weed. Although the London merchants hoped to monopolize 
the renewed trade with Spain, the protests of the merchants of the West 
Country ports, especially Bristol and Plymouth, forced the government to 
backtrack. First it tried to include the west country merchants in the monop- 
oly, and then it decreed for all English merchants freedom of trade to Port- 
ugal, Spain, and the Western Mediterranean, a policy that was later to 
apply to American merchants. At the same time, the privileged merchants 
of the Levant and Muscovy companies were suffering further losses 
because of local difficulties, especially foreign invasions of Russia. 

While economic pressure was turning the attention of English mer- 
chants once again to possible markets and supplies of raw materials in North 
America, and peace renewed attention to the New World that had been 
diverted by the war against Spain, the peace treaty also terminated the pre- 
viously permanent employment of many military and naval officers en- 
gaged in the war. In 1605 Weymouth again explored the coast of New Eng- 
land, this time in behalf of a group of soldier-courtiers, including Sir Fer- 
dinando Gorges, the Earl of Southampton, and the latter's brother-in-law, 
Sir Thomas Arundel. Weymouth's return in July 1605 led to several projects 
for trade and colonization in America, and in September of that year, peti- 
tions were presented to the Privy Council for the formation of companies 
to engage in these activities. Although the Privy Council was then consider- 
ing a project to plant English colonists in the lands taken from the Irish in 
Ulster, the value of North American colonies to English shipowners and to 
the English navy led the Trinity House Corporation and the Privy Council 
to approve the petitions. Finally, in April 1606 Raleigh's old dominion over 
Virginia was granted to two sets of powerful merchants, which included 
the merchants to whom Raleigh had sold his rights of trade. 

The new patent divided the monopoly powers of government over Vir- 
ginia between two joint stock companies of merchants. The South Virginia 
Company was to have claim over the land between the thirty-fourth and 
thirty-eighth parallels, roughly from Cape Fear north to the Potomac River; 
the North Virginia Company was to rule between the forty-first and forty- 
fifth parallels, roughly from Long Island to Maine. To stimulate competition 
and to provide incentive for colonizing, the zone in between was thrown 
open to settlement by either company, with the stipulation that one could 
not settle within one hundred miles of the other. Since the South Virginia 


Company was headed by leading merchants of London, it soon became 
known as the London Company; while the North Virginia Company, centered 
around merchants of Plymouth, came to be called the Plymouth Company. 
Each company was granted powers to allocate its land in any way it wished; 
the king reserved the then customary royalty of five percent of whatever 
gold or silver might be mined from the new land. Insisting upon overall 
royal control and dominion unique to monopoly charters of that era, the king 
vested supervisory control of the two companies in a Royal Council of Vir- 
ginia, which was appointed by the king and which in turn was to appoint 
resident local councils to govern each of the two colonies. The settlers and 
their descendants were supposed to enjoy all the "liberties, franchises, and 
immunities" of Englishmen at home — a clause immediately contradicted 
by the absence of any provision for elections or home rule. 

The Plymouth Company for North Virginia was composed of west country 
merchants, gentry, and soldiers, and was headed by the governor of Plymouth, 
Sir Ferdinando Gorges, who desired to establish a fishing and fur-trading 
colony independent of the London merchant-financiers. Also included in 
the group were Raleigh Gilbert, a son of Sir Humphrey, and Sir John Popham, 
chief justice of the King's Bench; Sir John had played a leading role in pro- 
curing the charter. The Plymouth Company dispatched an exploratory ex- 
pedition in October 1606, and sent colonists to America in May 1607 under 
Raleigh Gilbert and George Popham, a relative of Sir John. A settlement 
was established on the Kennebec River in what is now Maine, but because 
of a severe winter and poor crops, and the death of the two Pophams, the 
colony was abandoned in September 1608. Thereafter the Plymouth Com- 
pany did not attempt further colonization, but concentrated on the New- 
foundland fisheries and some fur trade. 

The London Company for South Virginia was composed of members of 
leading political families. The leading member was the ubiquitous Sir 
Thomas Smith, the leader of the group that had purchased trade rights from 
Raleigh, and the governor of the East India, Muscovy, and Levant companies. 
Other leading members were: the Reverend Richard Hakluyt; Robert 
Rich, Earl of Warwick, a leader in the monopoly -chartered East India, Burma, 
and Guinea companies; and the leading London merchants involved in the 
Muscovy, Levant, and East India companies. And just as the Levant Com- 
pany had been founded by members of the Muscovy Company, and a quarter 
of the stockholders in the East India Company were members of the Levant 
Company, so over one hundred members of the East India Company were 
now investors in the London Virginia Company, a main purpose of which 
was to provide a source of raw materials, such as tropical products, spices, 
and furs. Another prominent member in the London Company was Sir Edwin 
Sandys, a prominent Puritan and friend of a royal favorite, the Earl of South- 

The London Virginia Company sent forth its first settlers in December 
1606; they were carried then as in succeeding years on ships provided by 


the Muscovy Company, which long remained the major operator in the Vir- 
ginia trade. With them the colonists took the king's instructions to the com- 
pany, which included the requirement of a public oath of obedience by the 
colonists and a death penalty for all manner of crimes, including tumults, 
sedition, conspiracy, and adultery. The president and the council of the com- 
pany were empowered to make laws for the colonists, consistent with 
the laws of England, subject to revision by the Royal Council. 

The ships landed at Chesapeake Bay the following May 6. A settlement 
was founded thirty miles inland on the James River, called Jamestown, 
in honor of the king. This was the first sucessful English settlement in North 
America. The colony of Virginia had begun. 

The new English colonial grants were placed between the French ex- 
ploration and settlement to the north, and the Spanish occupation to the 
south. Through trading and missionary posts, Spain had been effectively oc- 
cupying the coast of what was later to become South Carolina, Georgia, and 
Florida. The French had been continually exploring and trading on the St. 
Lawrence for some years; already they had established a trade in furs, which 
would become the most valuable French export from North America. In 1602 
the patent for monopoly of the fur trade to France from North America had 
been granted to the Company of New France, which sent Samuel de Champ- 
lain to explore the St. Lawrence in 1603. The following years, Champlain 
established a fur post at Acadia (now Nova Scotia) and explored the coast 
of New England. 

In 1607 the Muscovy Company commissioned Henry Hudson, a descendant 
of the founder of the company, to explore the Arctic regions around Greenland. 
Two years later Holland and Spain concluded a trade, which the Dutch claimed 
gave them rights, similar to those accorded to the English, to sail to the New 
World. Promptly the Dutch sent Henry Hudson, under auspices of the Dutch 
East India Company, to explore the Arctic regions. Saliing along the North 
American coast from Newfoundland to the Carolinas, Hudson returned by 
way of Delaware Bay (South River) and the Hudson River (North River), 
which he explored up to Albany; he claimed the fur regions for the Dutch. 
In 1610 Hudson set forth under an English company headed by Sir Thomas 
Smith, and discovered Hudson's Bay before being abandoned by his mutinous 
crew. Several of the companies of which Smith was governor were sub- 
ject to reorganization in the spring of 1609, because of the new Dutch com- 
petition in North American waters resulting from the Dutch peace treaty 
with Spain. New charters were granted in May 1609 to the English East 
India Company and the closely linked London Virginia Company. The East 
India Company was granted a perpetual monopoly charter, and in the fol- 
lowing year established its first trading posts in India. Analogous to the East 
India Company charter, the new charter granted to the "Treasurer and Com- 
pany of the Adventurers and Planters of the City of London for the First 
Colony in Virginia" a corporate body politic, with Sir Thomas Smith filling 


the key, royally appointed post of treasurer. The charter was completely 
distinct from the old joint charter of the unsuccessful Plymouth Company. 
The rechartering of an independent London Virginia Company for Amer- 
ican colonization was complemented by the chartering of a new company 
for planting English and Scottish colonists in the lands recently conquered 
in Northern Ireland. In the spring of 1610 a group of London and Bristol mer- 
chants, interested in founding a colony in proximity to the fishing banks 
off Newfoundland, was chartered as the "Treasurer and Company of Adven- 
turers and Planters of Cities of London and Bristol for the Colony or Planta- 
tion of Newfoundland." Under the direction of Sir Ferdinando Gorges, the 
company prepared to send exploratory voyages along the New England 
Coast. To improve the financial condition of the London Virgina Company, 
a new charter was issued in 1612 to Smith as the 'Treasurer and Company 
of Virginia." The boundaries included the islands within three hundred 
leagues of the continent, specifically the rediscovered Bermudas or Somers 
Islands, which in 1615 were placed under the "Somers Islands Company" of 
which Smith was also the governor. Along with the 1612 Virginia Company 
charter, Smith received a charter as the "Governor and Company of the 
Merchants of London, Discovers of the North-West Passage" to follow up 
Henry Hudson's last voyage. In addition, Smith's Muscovy Company was 
rechartered in 1613; this enlarged the Muscovy Company's privileges in ex- 
ploring Greenland, Hudson Bay, Newfoundland, and North America, and 
included a monopoly of the whale and seal fishing, which had become the 
company's major interest because of the troubles in Russia. As this was an 
attempt to exclude Dutch as well as independent English whalers, the 
States-General of the United provinces of the Netherlands granted charters 
in 1614 to a company for the Greenland whale fishery and, in formal 
recognition of the exploratory work of Henry Hudson, granted to the New 
Netherland Company the power to colonize and trade in the area about the 
South (Delaware) and the North (Hudson) rivers. 



New World, New Land 

The Englishmen and other Europeans of the sixteenth and seven- 
teenth centuries faced westward to the New World in awe and in 
hope. For here was a vast virgin continent, and its most striking feature 
was the millions of square miles of new and potentially highly pro- 
ductive land. To a Europe beset by the incubus of feudalism and statism, 
of absolute monarchy, of state-controlled churches, of state restrictions 
on human labor and human enterprise; to a Europe with scarce land, 
which was engrossed by feudal and quasi-feudal landlords whose vast 
government-granted estates drained in rents the surplus over sub- 
sistence earned by the peasantry — to this Europe the new and vast 
land area appeared as potential manna from Heaven. At home the 
mass of Europeans — middle class and peasants alike — faced centuries 
of weary struggle against the frozen cake of status restrictions, a net- 
work of taxes, feudal dues and rents, and controls and shackles by states 
and state-fostered guilds. This was a relatively stagnant Old World, 
whose population pressed heavily upon the means of subsistence; 
this was a Europe but recently emerged from the secular depression 
into which the growth of statism had plunged it at the beginning of 
the fourteenth century. But abroad they saw a quite different vision: 
new, productive, and virtually unoccupied land (with the important 
exception of the rather thinly populated Indians), a land relatively 
unencumbered with the feudalism and restrictions that humbled them 
at home. In short, here at last was the opportunity for the individual 
to leave his unsatisfactory conditions at home to try to carve out of 
the wilderness a better life for himself and his family — a life offering 


him the freedom and opportunity to make his own way, stand on his 
own feet, and keep what he himself had earned. It is not the privilege 
of many generations of men to experience a revolution — a breeze of 
fresh air upon the stagnant social structure — and an opportunity to 
break loose from the old mold and strike out afresh on one's own. 
Through the discovery of the New World, the men of the seventeenth 
century experienced at least the potential of such a revolution. For the 
escape hatch to the untapped storehouse of the New World lay always 
at hand. 

New land, then, confronted the Old World, and this vast stretch of 
land furnished the most striking fact about the virgin American conti- 
nent. But how was the ownership of this great new land mass to be 
allocated? Basically, new and previously unowned land can come 
into ownership in two different ways: either the settler — the pioneer 
who, in the later phrase of John Locke, "mixes his labor with the soil" 
and brings the previously unused and fallow natural resources into pro- 
ductive use — is conceded ownership of the land he has in this way 
"created"; or he is not.* 

If he is not challenged, the pioneer settler of new land will naturally and 
automatically become its owner. There are two types of threats to this ba- 
sic principle of first ownership to first user: either existing settler-owners 
can be subjected to the arbitrarily imposed ownership of some overlord, or 
else new land can be parceled out to some person or persons before any 
settlement has taken place. In both cases, the arbitrary parceling is per- 
formed by the state — that institution that asserts its claim to a monopoly 
of legalized coercion in a given territorial area. The former is one of the chief 
methods of feudalism: the parceling out of peasant-owned land to the owner- 
ship of overlords favored by the state. But this method requires previously 
existing settlers. Clearly in the case of a new and untapped continent, 
the second method would be the major threat to settler-ownership of what 
the settlers would create. And this is precisely what happened in the case 
of North America. 

It is the propensity of the state to parcel out arbitrary subsidies, in dis- 
regard of the individual's natural right to own what he has produced. This 
propensity is here aggravated by the fact that the state always assumes 
sovereign ownership over new and unused land — it's self-proclaimed "pub- 
lic domain." It hereby assumes the right to dispose of this domain in any 
way it sees fit. Unless forced by the pressure of public opinion to do other- 
wise, the state will naturally tend to dispose of such land in a way best 
calculated to maximize either its own revenue or the revenue of its priv- 

*If it be objected that the pioneer has not really created the land, it is also true that no producer 
"creates" matter. The builder of a factory has not in the ultimate sense "created" the matter 
in the factory; he has rather transformed by the use of his labor the previously nature-given mat- 
ter. He has shifted this original matter into other forms more useful to himself and to his fellow 
men: this shifting is the meaning of "production." And this is precisely what the pioneer has 
done in transforming the land. 


ileged favorites. The crucial question then becomes: Will the land pass after 
a time into the hands of the settlers, or will it remain permanently in the 
hands of privileged overlords dominating the settlers? 

England, the major sovereign over the lands of North America, had been 
subjected to feudalism since at least the Norman Conquest of the eleventh 
century. After the conquest of England in 1066, the conquerors parceled out 
large tracts of land to the ownership of their leading warlords, and this newly 
created nobility became the liege lords of the subdued peasantry. Since the 
overwhelming mass of Englishmen were still engaged in agriculture, 
feudalism became the crucial fact about English — as well as other European — 
society. The major attributes of the feudal system were: the granting of 
huge estates to landowning warlords, the coerced binding of the peasants 
(serfs) to their land plots, and hence to the rule of their lords, and the further 
bolstering by the state of feudal status through compulsory primogeniture 
(the passing on of the estate to the oldest son only) and entail (prohibiting 
the landowner from alienating — selling, breaking up, etc. — his land). This 
process froze landlordship in the existing noble families, and prevented 
any natural market or genealogical forces from breaking up the vast estates. 

But after the late fourteenth century, the serfdom aspect of feudalism 
began a steady decline in England, as compulsory labor service imposed on 
the peasants began to be commuted permanently into money rents (' quit- 
rents," which quit or freed one of the onerous obligations of feudal — including 
military — service). By the early seventeenth century, however, feudal mil- 
itary service had not been abolished, and the two other aspects of feudalism — 
primogeniture and entail — remained intact. 

An important specific spur to imposing feudalism on the colonies of the 
New World was England's experience in subjugating Ireland. In the process 
of conquering Ireland during the sixteenth century, the English concluded 
that the "wild Irish" were no better than "Savages" and "unreasonable 
beasts" and hence could be treated as such — a significant preview of English 
treatment of the American Indian. As a result, the English decided that, 
as in Ireland, a colony had to be "Planted" under direction of a central mo- 
nopoly organization run along military lines; they also decided to favor im- 
posing on a colony a system of feudal land tenure. It was no coincidence that 
the leaders in the early English colonizing projects in America had almost 
all been deeply connected with the planting of Englishmen (largely a sup- 
posed surplus of poor) and feudal landownership in Ireland. Indeed, many of 
the active incorporators of the Virginia Company had substantial interests 
in Irish plantations.* 

As recently as 1603, in fact, a crushing defeat of the Irish had spurred re- 
newed colonization in Ulster by the English government. The hapless Irish 
peasants were declared to have no rights in owning land; instead, their 

•See the penetrating discussion in Howard Mumford Jones, Strange New World (New 
York: Viking Press, 1964), pp. 162-79. 


lands were handed over by the Crown in large grants to privileged courtiers 
and monopoly companies, all enjoying feudal powers over the new domain. 
The Irish were deliberately exterminated or driven off their land, and the 
vacant lands compulsorily planted with an alleged surplus of English poor, 
who were now little better than serfs. The treatment of the Irish and Ire- 
land provided a directly illuminating model for the gentlemen colonizing 
in Virginia. 

That the first English settlements in the New World were organized 
not directly by the Crown, but by private monopoly companies, meant that 
the proprietary company would be interested in subdividing its granted 
land as quickly as possible to the individual settlers, in order to reap a rapid 
gain for its shareholders. The situation was of course not that of the free 
market; if it were, the British government would: (a) have refrained from 
claiming sovereignty over the unused American domain, or especially 
(b) have granted ownership of the land titles to the actual settlers rather 
than to the company. The privileges to the chartered companies, however, 
did not prove disastrous in the long run: the companies were eager to induce 
settlers to come to their granted land and then dispose of the land to them 
at a profit. The cleansing acid of profit was to dissolve incipient feudalism 
and land monopoly. It is true that the fact of the land grant to the company 
engrossed the land for a time, and raised its price to the settlers, thus re- 
stricting settlement from what it would have been under freedom; but the 
quantitative effects were not very grave.* 

•Defenders of presettler land speculation have claimed that speculators (such as the first 
charter companies) spurred settlement in the hope of profit. This is true, but it does not offset 
the net restriction on settlement by virtue of the land grants and the consequent raising of 
the price of otherwise free land to the settlers. In a free market the same companies could 
simply have loaned settlement money to the colonists, and this productive credit could then 
have spurred settlement and earned them a profit without the arbitrary restrictions imposed 
by the land grants. 


Part II 

The Southern Colonies in 
the Seventeenth Century 


The Virginia Company 

The Virginia colony did not enter existence as a new entity in a new 
world devoid of the shackles of tradition. The two key areas of policy — land 
and commerce — were already clearly established before the Virginia Com- 
pany was planned and before the Virginia colony was established. In the 
period immediately preceding the formation of the Virginia Company and 
colony, a policy toward colonial land, commerce, government, natives and 
colonists became well established. A primary purpose for colonization was 
the belief that England was highly overpopulated and that colonies were a 
suitable outlet for the surplus poor of England. In 1603, the government is- 
sued an order for the forcible transportation of sturdy beggars, vagrants, 
and other troublesome persons to the English plantations across the sea in 
Ireland. During the preceding decade Ireland had suffered the ravages of 
the English army battling against a movement of national liberation seeking 
self-government, freedom of religion, and abandonment of the plantation of 
English colonists on Irish lands. The defeat of the Irish in 1603 by the 
studied English policy of destruction of crops, cattle, homes, and people, 
opened Ireland to renewed colonization by the English government. The 
Irish had no land rights; they were mere tenants at the will of their lords. 

The system of plantations in Ireland provided the pattern for establishing 
plantations in America. Grants of land were made to courtiers, privileged 
companies, and purchasers of feudal domains with feudal powers. Like the 
American Indians, the Irish were subjected to raids whose purpose was to 
destroy their subsistence and shelter, and to drive them out of the proposed 
area of plantation. These new feudal domains were settled by the poor of 
England who were subjected to feudal disabilities. In consequence, these 


poor not only did not own their lands; they barely owned themselves. The 
colonial government of Ireland remained the despotism that was established 
by the Tudors. 

Since the English government was deeply engaged in the development 
of a program for Irish colonization when the Virginia Company was being 
organized, there were complaints that the proposals for American colonies 
would interfere with the plantation of Ulster: "It was absurd folly to run 
over the world in the search of colonies in Virginia or Guiana, whilst Ireland 
was lying desolate." However, colonies in Virginia or Guiana would not 
only contribute to the decrease of the burden of overpopulation; they would 
also be a source of important tropical or semitropical products that were ob- 
jectives of the privileged trading companies of London. The London finan- 
ciers purchased from the government the right to retain general customs 
as well as tobacco duties, since tobacco was becoming a significant imported 
commodity. Spanish America, especially the lands and islands about the 
Caribbean, was the source of tobacco, and its use in England grew rapidly 
once trade was established with Spain in 1604. However, the use of tobacco 
was much disliked by James I, because it not only was a drain of money 
from England to Spain, but also was considered poisonous and a sign of in- 
temperance and vice, by which Englishmen allowed themselves to be de- 
based by the barbaric practices of the Indians. But the habit became wide- 
spread and an important source of tax revenue. 

In 1604 the English government initiated new increases in the customs 
duties, making the farming of the duties* even more profitable. At the same 
time, the increases in tariffs made smuggling such a profitable business 
that it became organized on a professional basis. The smuggling business 
was a well-organized system of purchase, transportation, delivery, and dis- 
tribution in which the free trader was not only sailor and merchant, but also 
policeman, to protect his property from attacks by government officials. 
Tobacco became one of the most important of the basic items for smuggling. 
Besides increasing direct taxation, the government, in effect, encouraged 
smuggling through indirect taxes via sale of monopoly privileges. 

James Is first Parliament in 1604 established the tone for the future 
Parliaments of the seventeenth century: opposition to the government. The 
Parliament of 1604 strongly stated the grievances felt against the govern- 
ment, and among the fiscal reforms demanded by the House of Commons 
was the abolition of the foreign trading companies having monopolies. A 
committee, under the chairmanship of Sir Edwin Sandys, presented a bill 
"for all merchants to have free liberty of trade, into all countries, as is used 
in all other nations." Sandys said: "All free subjects are born inheritable as 
to their land, as also to the free exercise of their industry, in those trades 
whereto they apply themselves and whereby they are to live." 

The Parliament of 1605 continued to state the grievances of the people 
against the monopolies of London financiers: after the closing of Parliament, 

*"Tax farming" was the sale by government of the right to tax. 


the government sought to quiet opposition by coopting provincial capitalists 
into the monopoly privileges. However, the desire for the advantages of free- 
dom of trade outweighed the advantages of monopoly privileges, and the 
attempt to force the investors of the West Country ports, such as Plymouth 
and Bristol, into the London monopolies proved unsatisfactory. Thus the col- 
onization activities of the West Country promoters had to be separated 
from those of the London colonial promoters. This resulted in the creation 
of two Virginia companies and charters (September 1605 and April 1606). 
In 1606 the Parliament declared void the charters of the monopoly com- 
panies trading with southern Europe, which action freed and opened that 
trade to all English merchants. In response the government refused to call 
Parliament for almost three years, hoping to raise money by prerogative 
power — by increasing the duties on imports and exports without Parliamen- 
tary consent and by the creation or extension of monopolies. The Parlia- 
ment of 1610 protested the imposition of increased taxes and deprivation 
of civil liberties by the prerogative courts, and refused to vote any taxes. 

The government continued to gain its income by prerogative power, 
granting increased privileges in 1612 to such companies as the Virginia 
Company and the East India Company. Despite the financial manipulations 
of the government, its debt more than doubled and it sought to gain taxes 
by controlling elections to the House of Commons. But a House opposed to the 
government was elected, and by a unanimous vote it criticized the impo- 
sition of taxes by the government. Sir Edwin Sandys said of the monopolies 
and taxes imposed by the government, that what in the past had been done 
only temporarily and in emergencies was now being claimed by right. 
The Parliament refused to pass any legislation or approve any taxation until 
the grievances of the people were redressed by the government. The govern- 
ment dissolved the Parliament, and over a dozen members were punished 
by the government by imprisonment or house arrest, including Sir Edwin 

Although the government continued to create and enlarge its inspections, 
regulations, controls, and monopolies, the rationalization of government 
power was further undermined in 1614 by common-law court decisions 
against monopolies. During the constitutional struggle of the seventeenth 
century, the common law was often used against the government's posi- 
tive laws. An important aspect of the struggle was the provision of Magna 
Carta guaranteeing complete freedom of trade as part of the protection of 
liberty and property. Any interference in economic activity by the govern- 
ment or by any group privileged by the government constituted restraint 
of trade contrary to the principles of common law. It became evident that 
there could not be any restraint of trade without government action, and 
the common-law courts refused to enforce the monopolies whenever the 
government did not interfere with the freedom of the courts. 

Among the bills failing passage in 1614 was one for a navigation act. 
Following the peace of April 1609 between Spain and the Netherlands, 


the Dutch were able to compete favorably with English shipowners in the 
fishing, coastal, and distant trades because of cheaper costs due to more 
efficient construction. The English government occasionally harassed Dutch 
shipping, at the insistence of English shippers, by intermittently enforcing 
old laws and collecting fines. Although in 1602 the English government had 
insisted to Denmark that "the law of Nations alloweth of fishing in the seas 
everywhere," the increased competitive ability of the Dutch caused the 
English government to issue a contrasting proclamation in May 1609- This 
proclamation claimed that the English government had dominance and 
political authority over those high seas in which England possessed exclu- 
sive fishing rights; therefore, the Dutch should withdraw from these seas 
or pay taxes to the English government. To the Dutch the fishing industry 
was highly important, and thus the English sought to strike at the basis of 
Dutch prosperity. 

After thirty years the fantasies of the magician Dr. John Dee had become 
the program of the English government, a program for which Englishmen 
would be forced to sacrifice their lives. In place of that spirit of freedom 
and mutual advantage of the Intercursus Magnus, which had guided English 
maritime policy for over one hundred years and would remain the letter of 
the law for another several decades, there was entering into the policy of 
the English government a spirit of increased restriction and belligerency. 
This spirit was reflected in the expansion of the mercantilist system during 
the seventeenth century, aimed especially at the Dutch. In opposition to 
the claims of exclusive control of the high seas by England in the North Sea 
and the North Atlantic and by Spain and Portugal in the East and West 
Indies, the Dutchman Hugo Grotius contended for the freedom of the seas 
in his work Mare Liberum (1609). That the seas were to be open to all and 
free from government control was an idea that Grotius, the founder of in- 
ternational law, derived from Spanish philosophical thought, especially from 
the work of Francisco Suarez. Suarez had established the basis for inter- 
national law by deducing from the variety of peoples and states that the 
unity of the human race can only be represented by a general rational in- 
ternational law, and not by a general political organization or domination, 
whether over the lands or over the seas. 

In 1613 a Dutch diplomatic delegation, including Hugo Grotius, came to 
London to negotiate for improved commercial relations, and one of the 
matters raised was the possibility of greater cooperation between the 
Dutch and English East India companies, which had traded together in the 
Indies in amity. There was heavy Dutch investment in England because of 
the higher interest rates there, and the English East India Company was one 
of the businesses in which the Dutch had invested heavily. Because of the 
adoption of a permanent joint stock similar to that of the more advanced 
Dutch business organization, and the common concern of defense against 
Portuguese fleets, there was increased Dutch interest in the English East 
India Company. A merger of the companies was proposed that would have 


maintained the autonomy of the English body. Although the English would 
have benefited from the superior Dutch capacity, trading experience in the 
Indies, and technical competence, the English East India directors rejected 
this proposal and engaged in armed conflict with the merchants and ships 
of the Dutch East India Company. Apparently the English preferred the re- 
turns of hostile conflict to the profits of peaceful cooperation. This hostility 
would have been increased and generalized by the proposed navigation act 
of 1614 that would have imposed upon English merchants the requirement 
to ship English goods on English ships. 

The English shipowners had maintained that English regulations forced 
them to use uneconomical ships. The regulations required that ships be 
built so they could be transformed into auxiliary warships — built for speed 
and maneuverability rather than for carrying cargoes at low operational 
costs. The English shippers desired compensation in the form of a navigation 
act forcing English merchants to use the uneconomical English ships rather 
than the more efficient Dutch ships. In reply to the shipowners and the 
monopoly companies, the merchants said that navigation acts were "poi- 
son" that would destroy the competitive position of the English merchants 
in foreign trade and reduce the standard of living of the English public as 
consumers of imports and producers of exports. To use English ships with 
their much larger crews and smaller capacities, the merchants insisted, 
would greatly raise their costs and thus reduce English competitive ability 
in the world market. 

The monopoly companies headed by Sir Thomas Smith became the focus 
of increasing popular criticism leveled against the government's attempt 
to expand further the system of privileges. Representative of the literate 
attacks on monopoly and the navigation acts in the Commons was The Trades 
Increase (1615), which centered its attack upon the power nucleus of the 
London financiers headed by Thomas Smith and the East India Company. 
The pamphlet declared that monopoly privileges were contrary to the free- 
dom of Englishmen and that no one shoud be barred from carrying on trade 
equally in all parts of the world. The East India Company directors considered 
the pamphlet particularly dangerous, even treasonable, and commissioned 
the writing of an answer: The Defense of Trade. The Trades Increase favored 
the establishment of colonies in America, but charged that the growth of 
colonies there had been stunted by the grants of monopoly privileges that 
discouraged settlement. 

In fact, the Virginia colony was not doing very well in drawing off Eng- 
land's surplus poor. Besides transporting vagrants and criminals to Virginia, 
the London Company and the City of London agreed to transport poor chil- 
dren from London to Virginia. However, the poorest refused the proffered 
boon and the company moved to obtain warrants to force the children to mi- 
grate. It seemed, indeed, that the Virginia colony, failing also to return 
profits to the company investors, was becoming a failure on every count. 

The survival of the Virginia colony hung, in fact, for years by a hair- 


breadth. The colonists were not accustomed to the labor required of a pio- 
neer, and malaria decimated the settlers. Of the 104 colonists who reached 
Virginia in May 1607, only thirty were still alive by that fall, and a similar 
death rate prevailed among new arrivals for many years. As late as 1616, 
only 350 colonists remained of a grand total of over 1,600 immigrants. 

One major reason for the survival of this distressed colony was the changes 
that the company agreed to make in its social structure. The bulk of the col- 
onists had been under "indenture" contracts, and were in servitude to the 
company for seven years in exchange for passage money and maintenance 
during the period, and sometimes for the prospect of a little land at the end 
of their term of service. The contract was called an indenture because it 
was originally written in duplicate on a large sheet — the two halves sep- 
arated by a jagged line called an "indent." While it is true that the orig- 
inal contract was generally voluntary, it is also true that a free society does 
not enforce even temporary voluntary slave contracts, since it must allow 
for a person to be able to change his mind, and for the inalienability of a 
person's control over his will and his body. While a man's property is alien- 
able and may be transferred from one person to another, a person's will is 
not; the creditor in a free society may enforce the collection of payment for 
money he may have advanced (in this case, passage and maintenance 
money), but he may not continue to enforce slave labor, however temporary 
it may be. Furthermore, many of the indentures were compulsory and not 
voluntary — for example, those involving political prisoners, imprisoned 
debtors, and kidnapped children of the English lower classes. The children 
were kidnapped by professional "spirits" or "crimps" and sold to the 

In the concrete conditions of the colony, slavery, as always, robbed the 
individual of his incentive to work and save, and thereby endangered the 
survival of the settlement. The new charter granted in 1609 by the Crown to 
the company (now called the Virginia Company) added to the incentives of 
the individual colonists by providing that every settler above the age of ten 
be given one share of stock in the company. At the end of seven years, each 
person was promised a grant of 100 acres of land, and a share of assets of the 
company in proportion to the shares of stock held. The new charter also 
granted the company more independence, and more responsibility to its 
stockholders, by providing that all vacancies in the governing Royal Council 
be filled by the company, which would thus eventually assume control. The 
charter of 1609 also stored up trouble for the future by adding wildly to the 
grant of land to the Virginia Company. The original charter had sensibly 
confined the grant to the coastal area (to 100 miles inland) — the extent of 
English sovereignty on the continent. But the 1609 charter grandiosely ex- 
tended the Virginia Company "from sea to sea," that is, westward to the 
Pacific. Furthermore, its wording was so vague as to make it unclear whether 
the extension was westward or northwestward — not an academic point, 
but a prolific source of conflict later on. The charter of 1612 added the island 


of Bermuda to the vast Virginia domain, but this was soon farmed out to a 
subsidiary corporation. 

The incentives provided by the charter of 1609, however, were still only 
future promises. The colony was still being run on "communist" principles — 
each person contributed the fruit of his labor according to his ability to a 
common storehouse run by the company, and from this common store 
each received produce according to his need. And this was a communism 
not voluntarily contracted by the colonists themselves, but imposed upon 
them by their master, the Virginia Company, the receiver of the arbitrary 
land grant for the territory. 

The result of this communism was what we might expect: each individ- 
ual gained only a negligible amount of goods from his own exertions — since 
the fruit of all these went into the common store — and hence had little 
incentive to work, or to exercise initiative or ingenuity under the difficult 
conditions in Virginia. And this lack of incentive was doubly reinforced by 
the fact that the colonist was assured, regardless of how much or how well 
he worked, of an equal share of goods from the common store. Under such 
conditions, with the motor of incentive gone from each individual, even 
the menace of death and starvation for the group as a whole — and even a 
veritable reign of terror by the governors— could not provide the necessary 
spur for each particular man. 

The communism was only an aspect of the harshness of the laws and the 
government suffered by the colony. Absolute power of life and death over 
the colonists was often held by one or two councillors of the company. Thus, 
Captain John Smith, the only surviving Royal Council member in the win- 
ter of 1609, read his absolute powers to the colonists once a week. "There 
are no more Councils to protect or curb my endeavors," he thundered, and 
every violator of his decrees could "assuredly expect his due punishment." 
Sir Thomas Gates, appointed governor of Virginia in 1609, was instructed 
by the company to "proceed by martial law ... as of most dispatch and 
tenor and fittest for this government [of Virginia]." Accordingly, Gates 
established a code of military discipline over the colony in May 1610. The 
code ordered strict religious observance, among other things. Some twenty 
"crimes" were punishable by death, including such practices as trading 
with Indians without a license, killing cattle and poultry without a license, 
escape from the colony, and persistent refusal to attend church. One of the 
most heinous acts was apparently running away from this virtual prison to 
the supposedly savage Indian natives; captured runaway colonists were 
executed by hanging, shooting, burning, or being broken on the wheel. It 
is no wonder that Gates' instructions took the precaution of providing 
him with a bodyguard to protect him from the wrath of his subjects; for, as 
the succeeding governor wrote in the following year, the colony was 
"full of mutiny and treasonable inhabitants." 

The directors of the Virginia Company decided, unfortunately, that the 
cure for the grave ailments of the colony was not less but even more disci- 


pline. Accordingly, they sent Sir Thomas Dale to be governor and ruler of the 
colony. Dale increased the severity of the laws in June 1611. Dale's Laws — 
"the Laws Divine, Moral and Martial" — became justly notorious: They pro- 
vided, for example, that every man and woman in the colony be forced to 
attend divine service (Anglican) twice a day or be severely punished. For 
the first absence, the culprit was to go without food; for the second, to be 
publicly whipped; and for the third, to be forced to work in the galleys for 
six months. This was not all. Every person was compelled to satisfy the An- 
glican minister of his religious soundness, and to place himself under the 
minister's instructions; neglect of this duty was punished by public whipping 
each day of the neglect. No other offense was more criminal than any crit- 
icism of the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England: torture and 
death were the lot of any who persisted in open criticism. This stringent re- 
pression reflected the growing movement in England, of Puritans and other 
Dissenters, to reform, or to win acceptance alongside, the established 
Church of England. Dale's Laws also provided: 

That no man speak impiously . . . against the holy and blessed Trinity ... or 
against the known Articles of the Christian faith, upon pain of death. . . . 
That no man shall use any traitorous words against His Majesty's person, or 
royal authority, upon pain of death. . . . 

No man . . . shall dare to detract, slander, calumniate or utter unseemly speeches, 
either against Council or against Committees, Assistants . . . etc. First offense 
to be whipped three times; second offense to be sent to galleys; third offense — 

Offenses such as obtaining food from the Indians, stealing food, and at- 
tempting to return to England were punishable by death and torture. Lesser 
offenses were punished by whipping or by slavery in irons for a number of 
years. Governor Dale's major constructive act was to begin slightly the pro- 
cess of dissolution of communism in the Virginia colony; to stimulate indi- 
vidual self-interest, he granted three acres of land, and the fruits thereof, to 
each of the old settlers. 

Dale's successor, Captain Samuel Argall, a relative of Sir Thomas Smith, 
arrived in 1617, and found such increased laxity during the interim admin- 
istration of Captain George Yeardley that he did not hesitate to reimpose 
Dale's Laws. Argall ordered every person to go to church Sundays and holidays 
or suffer torture and "be a slave the week following." He also imposed forced 
labor more severely. 

Fortunately, for the success of the Virginia colony, the Virginia Company 
came into the hands of the Puritans in London. Sir Thomas Smith was ousted 
in 1619 and his post as treasurer of the company was assumed by Sir Edwin 
Sandys, a Puritan leader in the House of Commons who had prepared the 
draft of the amended charter of 1609. Sandys, one of the great leaders of the 
liberal dissent in Parliament, had helped to draw up the remonstrance 
against the conduct of James I in relation to the king's first Parliament. 
Sir Edwin had urged that all prisoners have benefit of counsel; had advocated 


freedom of trade and opposed monopolies and feudalism; had favored reli- 
gious toleration; and generally had espoused the grievances of the people 
against the Crown. For Virginia, Sandys wanted to abandon the single com- 
pany plantation and to encourage private plantations, the ready acquisition 
of land, and speedy settlement. 

The relatively liberal Puritans removed and attempted to arrest Argall, 
and sent Sir George Yeardley to Virginia as governor. Yeardley at once pro- 
ceeded to reform the despotic laws of the colony. He substituted a much 
milder code in November 1618 (called by the colonists "The Great Charter"): 
everyone was still forced to attend Church of England services, but only twice 
each Sunday, and the penalty for absence was now reduced to the relatively 
innocuous three shillings for each offense. Yeardley also increased to fifty 
acres the allotment of land to each settler, thereby speeding the dissolution 
of communism, and also beginning the process of transferring land from the 
company to the individual settler who had occupied and worked it. Further- 
more, land that had been promised to the settlers after a seven-year term 
was now allotted to them immediately. 

The colonists themselves testified to the splendid effects of the Yeardley 
reforms, in a declaration of 1624. The reforms 

gave such encouragement to every person here that all of them followed their 
particular labors with singular alacrity and industry, so that . . . within the space 
of three years, our country flourished with many new erected Plantations. . . . 
The plenty of these times likewise was such that all men generally were 
sufficiently furnished with corn, and many also had plenty of cattle, swine, 
poultry, and other good provisions to nourish them. 

In his Great Charter, Yeardley also brought to the colonists the first rep- 
resentative institution in America. The governor established a General 
Assembly, which consisted of six councillors appointed by the company, and 
burgesses elected by the freemen of the colony. Two burgesses were to be 
elected from each of eleven "plantations": four "general plantations," 
denoting subsettlements that had been made in Virginia; and seven private 
or "particular" plantations, also known as "hundreds." The four general 
plantations, or subsettlements, each governed locally by its key town or 
"city," were the City of Henrico, Charles City, James City (the capital), 
and the Borough of Kecoughtan, soon renamed Elizabeth City. The Assembly 
was to meet at least annually, make laws, and serve as the highest court of 
justice. The governor, however, had veto power over the Assembly, and the 
company's edicts continued to be binding on the colony. 

The first Assembly met at Jamestown on July 30, 1619, and it was this 
Assembly that ratified the repeal of Dale's Laws and substituted the milder 
set. The introduction of representation thus went hand in hand with the new 
policy of liberalizing the laws; it was part and parcel of the relaxation of the 
previous company tyranny. 

The other major factor in the survival of the colony was the discovery by 


John Rolfe, about 1612, that Virginia tobacco could be grown in such a way 
as to make it acceptable to European tastes. Previously, Virginia tobacco had 
been regarded as inferior to the product that had been introduced to the Old 
World by the Spanish colonies in America. By 1614 Rolfe was able to ship a 
cargo of tobacco to London and meet a successful market. Very rapidly, Vir- 
ginia possessed a staple and an important economic base; tobacco could be 
readily exported to Europe and exchanged for other goods needed by the col- 
onists. By 1617 tobacco was being planted even in the streets of James- 
town. An index to the extremely rapid rate of growth of the tobacco produc- 
tion is the quantity of Virginia tobacco imported by England: 2.5 thousand 
pounds in 1616; 50,000 pounds in 1618; 119,000 pounds in 1620; and 
203,000 pounds in 1624. 

Even though tobacco was truly the lifeblood of the little colony, the govern- 
ment — of Britain and of Virginia — could not keep from trying to cripple its 
growth. King James was aesthetically offended by the spread of the fashion 
for that "idle vanity," smoking, and so placed a heavy duty on tobacco to limit 
its import. In that way, presumably, Englishmen would only smoke "with 
moderation, to preserve their health/' Sir Thomas Dale, alarmed at the 
prospects of monoculture, decreed it a crime for a planter not to raise an 
additional two acres of corn for himself and each servant — presumably no 
person was to be trusted with the far more efficient procedure of raising 
tobacco, and with the proceeds buying his own corn from whomever he 
desired. Even the patron saint of Virginia tobacco, John Rolfe, was appalled 
at its rapid spread, thus showing a far skimpier knowledge of economics 
than of the technology of tobacco. Even the liberal Sir Edwin Sandys took 
this position and deplored the spread of tobacco and the deemphasis on 
corn. Only Captain John Smith showed economic sense by pointing out the 
reason for the colonists' seemingly peculiar emphasis on tobacco over corn: 
a man's labor in tobacco could earn six times as much as in grain. 

The first General Assembly added to the regulations on tobacco: every 
settler was forced to plant, each year, a certain quota of other plants and 
crops; the price of tobacco was fixed by law, and any tobacco judged 
"inferior" by an official government committee was ordered burned. The 
latter regulation was the first of continuing attempts by tobacco planters 
to restrict the supply of tobacco (in this case, low-priced, "inferior," leaf) 
in order to raise the price received from the buyers and ultimately from the 

If tobacco was partly responsible for the survival of the colony, it was 
also indirectly responsible for the introduction into America of grievous 
and devastating problems. For one thing, the natural process of trans- 
ferring the land from a ruling company to the individual settler, roughly 
to the extent to which he brought the land into use, was sharply altered 
and blocked. Tobacco farming required much larger estates than truck or 
other individual farms. Hence, the wealthier tobacco planters sought and 
obtained very large land grants from the company. 


One method of obtaining land was distributing to the colonists by "head- 
right" — that is, each immigrant received fifty acres, and anyone who 
paid for an immigrant's passage received fifty acres of land per immi- 
grant from the company. As a result, the wealthier planters could ac- 
quire vast tracts by accumulating numerous headrights. 

Furthermore, large grants of land were made to leading stockholders 
of the company. For one thing, each individual planter received a grant of 
100 acres for each share of stock he held in the company. To raise cash for its 
hard-pressed finances, the company also sold "bills of adventure," enti- 
tling the holders not to stock, but specifically to 100 acres of Virginia land per 
"bill." Each bill was the same denomination as a company share ( £12 10s). 
Often, billholders joined together to take up allotments of lands to be held 
for speculation. As a result of these practices, several "particular plan- 
tations" emerged as settlements in large land grants, presided over by 
the private government of the grantee. The largest particular plantation 
was Berkeley's Hundred, 4,500 acres on the north side of the upper James 
River, granted as a first dividend to five prominent stockholders headed 
by the Berkeleys and settled in 1619- Other plantations were Smith's 
Hundred, Martins Hundred, Bennett's Plantation, and Martin's 

Arbitrary land allocations were also made by the governor and the assem- 
bly. Thus 3,000 acres in the capital and three other general plantations 
were reserved to the company, with the settlers being confined to ten- 
ants. The proceeds were to go toward the expenses of government. 
Land was also reserved for support of the local officials and ministers, 
and as a subsidy for local artisans. A substantial grant was given to Governor 
Yeardley, and 10,000 acres were reserved for a proposed university at 

The crucial point, however, is that the planters would not have been 
able to cultivate these large tobacco plantations— and therefore would not 
have been moved to acquire and keep so much land — if they had had to rely 
on free and independent labor. So scarce was such labor in relation to 
land resources that the hiring of free labor would not have been econom- 
ically feasible. But the planters then turned to the use of forced labor to 
render their large plantations profitable: specifically, the labor of the in- 
dentured servants and of the even more thoroughly coerced Negro slaves. 
In slavery, the laborer is coerced not only for a term of years, or for life, 
but for the lives of himself and all his descendants. It was an ironic com- 
mentary on the later history of America that 1619, the very year of the 
Yeardley reforms, saw the first slave vessel arrive at Jamestown with 
twenty Negroes aboard, to be sold as slaves to the tobacco planters. Until 
the mid-seventeenth century, the planters preferred to rely on indentured 
serf labor. These white servants, once their term had expired, could obtain 
their land, generally fifty acres each, on the western fringe of the set- 
tlement, and become independent settlers. But Negro slavery, unlike 


indentured service, had no means of dissolving into the general society; 
once introduced, it became the backbone of the Virginian (and other 
Southern) labor system. It could only remain as a continual canker on the 
American body social. 

The tiny colony was apparently not too young to have "foreign affairs"; 
and, indeed, it learned all too quickly the ways of interstate relations. 
French settlers had the temerity to found a colony of their own at Mount 
Desert (in what was later to be Maine) and on the banks of the Bay of 
Fundy (in what was later to become Nova Scotia). This "trespassed" 
upon the land that King James had arbitrarily granted to the Plymouth 
Company, which had not yet made any settlement in North America. 
It also trespassed on the greater glory of England. And so, Southern Virginia 
did the honors: Captain Samuel Argall, disguising his ship as a fishing ves- 
sel, sailed from the colony up to Mount Desert in 1613, eradicated the 
French settlement, and kidnapped fifteen French settlers, including two 
Jesuit priests. Hauled to Virginia, the prisoners were badly treated. 
Over a dozen of the hapless French settlers were turned loose by Argall 
on the Atlantic in an open boat, but they had the good fortune to be rescued 
by fishing vessels. Later in the year, Argall returned north and expanded his 
work of destruction, putting to the torch the settlements of St. Croix 
and Port Royal, the latter in Nova Scotia, and driving the settlers into 
the woods. A few years later, Captain Argall, now governor of Virginia, 
continued the tradition by participating in piratical activities against 
Spanish shipping. He sailed under the aegis of the king s favorite among 
the company stockholders, the Earl of Warwick. 



From Company to Royal Colony 

King James I encountered growing troubles with the Puritans at home, 
and grew increasingly restive about the Puritan Virginia Company. For 
one thing, the king had ousted Sandys from his post as treasurer, only to 
find him replaced by Sandys' liberal ally, the Earl of Southampton; the 
disgruntled and influential Sir Thomas Smith persisted in advising the 
king to confiscate the company. Finally, King James managed, in 1624, to 
obtain from a court under his domination, the annulment of the charter 
of the Virginia Company.* 

The abrupt change in government, though unwelcome to the Virginia 
settlers, scarcely altered the social structure of the Virginia colony — for, 
surprisingly, the king did not disturb the land titles and land privileges that 
had been allocated to individuals and groups by the company. For many 
years, indeed, the colony continued to grant land in exchange for the 
company's shares. These allotments continued to be made in large tracts, 
and generally the best tracts — in contrast to the small frontier settlements 
of the indentured servants — along the navigable rivers. One result of this 
pattern of land allocation, and of the heavy reliance on forced labor, was 
that Virginia — in contrast, as we shall see, to the New England system — 
was thinly settled over an extended area with few towns or villages. 

*One of King James' maneuvers against the company was to have the Privy Council sus- 
pend, in 1622, the use of the lottery as a fund-raising device, although it had been authorized 
in the amended charter of 1612. This turnabout contributed greatly to the financial difficulties 
of the Company and its going into receivership in 1623. Lotteries had accounted for £8,000 of 
the total Virginia Company budget of less than £18,000 in fiscal year 1621. Pressures against 
the company's right to finance itself by lottery came also from the ousted Smith group, and 
from capitalists who feared the competition for funds of the lottery device. 


The tobacco planters prospered, and increased their reliance on indentured 
service and, after midcentury, on Negro slavery. 

The London Company, after granting land to the individual settlers, 
had reserved to itself the feudal quitrent, in this case, of two shillings per 
100 acres. Since the quitrent was not payable for seven years, until 1625, 
the Crown upon seizure of the assets of the London Company took over 
the proprietary privilege and collected the first quitrents from the settlers. 
However, the British government did not bother to enforce collection of 
the dues. 

At first the governor, now appointed by the king; his council, chosen by 
the king from among the wealthiest and most prominent of Virginians 
nominated by the governor; and the representative burgesses continued 
to sit together. But soon they were divided into two houses: the Council, 
and the House of Burgesses. The Council also functioned as the supreme 
judicial body of the colony when sitting as the General Court. Thus the 
legislative and judicial powers were combined. Before this court came all 
the major criminal and civil cases. The local county courts had direct juris- 
diction over minor cases with appeals permitted to the General Court. 
The councillors held office indefinitely; they were usually reappointed 
whenever a new governor arrived. The increase in the number of settlers 
and settlements, as well as a decline of the importance of the particular 
plantations, brought about in 1634 a change in the political divisions of the 
colony. Hence a change occurred in the composition of the House of Bur- 
gesses. Instead of the system of general and particular plantations, eight 
counties were created, counties that followed settlement westward 
along the rivers of Virginia. The eight original counties were: on the James 
River, Elizabeth City, Wanasqueoc (later Isle of Wight), Warwick River 
(later Warwick), James City, Charles City, and Henrico; on the Charles 
(New York) River, Charles River County; and encompassing the Eastern 
Shore, Accomack County. Two burgesses were now chosen from each 
county, and one from each of the leading towns, by qualified property 

Thus emerged an English Parliament in miniature. The governor, how- 
ever, as the king's proconsul in the colony, was the dominant governing 
influence. He commanded the army and navy, directed religious affairs, 
appointed justices of the peace and other court officials, and called together 
or dissolved the Assembly at will; he could also veto any law that the As- 
sembly might pass. He presided over the Council, which consented to the 
judicial appointments, and, as we have seen, effectively controlled its mem- 
bership. He was the major ruler of the colony. 

Local officials were all appointed directly by the governor and his Coun- 
cil. The major local officials were the justices of the peace, who performed 
both the judicial and the executive functions for their areas. 



The Social Structure of Virginia: 
Planters and Farmers 

But if the royal governor was the leading governing power, de facto 
he shared the rule over Virginia society with an oligarchy of very large to- 
bacco planters, who, as we have seen, were granted large tracts of choke 
river land, and who were able to command and exploit the labor of slaves 
and indentured servants for their plantations. This ruling class of large plant- 
ers permeated the officers of colonial government: they constituted the 
entire Council — the upper house of the Assembly and supreme judicial 
body — and a majority of the House of Burgesses. In addition, they were the 
major county officers — judges, colonels of the militia, and revenue officers. 
The large planters also made up the vestry that governed each parish, the 
smallest political unit. The next larger unit, the county, was ruled by sev- 
eral justices of the peace, appointed by the governor from among the plant- 
ers. The justices of the peace held county court, administered roads and 
police, and assessed taxes. Orders of the county court were executed by the 
sheriff and the county lieutenant, commander of the local militia; both 
were appointed by the governor, with the advice of the county court. 

The great bulk of the free populace were not large planters, but small 
farmers with holdings of fifty to a few hundred acres. These were inde- 
pendent yeomen who had acquired titles to the land they were to settle 
by headright grant, or at the end of their indentured term of service. 
A few small farmers had one or two indentured servants, but most had 
none, the labor being performed by the farmer and his family. Despite 
the rule of the royal governor and the preemption of choice land and the 


use of slaves by the large planters, the yeomen enjoyed a far freer, more 
mobile society than they had ever known. They were free, above all, from 
the hopelessness of the rigid feudalism and caste structure that they had 
left behind in England. Here they were, at last, owners of their own land 
and products. They were pioneers, hewing out their living from a new and 
untapped continent. 

The bulk of Virginians in the colonial era made their living from the soil, 
and so the society and the economy were almost wholly agrarian. Even 
the few town dwellers were close to agrarian life and traded agrarian 
produce. Scattered thinly over a wide area, the agricultural population used 
the rivers as the primary method of transportation: roads by land were 
poor and travel difficult. Even merchants were scarce, and the planters 
depended on English ships for their merchandise. Far-off London and Bristol 
were virtually their nearest market towns; there they maintained fac- 
tors as agents in trade. The poorer farmers were often served by neigh- 
boring planters, who would thus function intermittently as middlemen in 
lieu of specialized merchants nearby. The wealthy planters were able to 
trade in quantity, and to "break bulk" for the smaller farmers. 

While the great export staple was tobacco, each of the large plantations 
functioned like the feudal manor: each was a nearly self-sufficient eco- 
nomic entity, producing its own food, clothing, and shelter, and importing 
large equipment and luxury items of consumption for the planters. 

Tobacco production continued to grow spectacularly: American tobacco 
imported by England amounted to 203,000 pounds in 1624, reached over 
17.5 million pounds by 1672, and 28 million pounds in 1688.* As tobacco pro- 
duction grew, its price naturally fell: from sixpence to a penny or less a 
pound. As a result, the lot of the small tobacco farmers became increas- 
ingly difficult, and they found it harder and harder to compete with the 
larger plantations, which were staffed with slave and bondservant labor. 
An increased use of slave labor after 1670 widened the gulf between the 
planters and the small farmers. 

The ruling planters, naturally enough, aspired to the life of the English 
country nobility. As their prosperity improved, so did their culture and 
learning. In the colonial period there was little of that aura of "magnolia 
and roses," or of the pampered idleness, often attributed to the Virginia 
aristocracy. As we have seen, they were often deep in trade, and the Vir- 
ginia planters had none of the traditional aristocratic contempt for hard 
work or for trading. They were not securely wealthy enough to afford shirk- 
ing the unremitting task of managing their estates. 

They were, in short, not yet established enough in privilege to assume 
a European aristocratic attitude toward business. Even the large plant- 
ers could not relax from their task of trying to make profits and avoid 
losses. Despite their privileges, a life of idle dandyism would have led to 

•The last two figures include imports from Maryland, a colony carved out of the original 
Virginia Company land grant, but the point is still made. 


rapid bankruptcy. Neither did the pseudoheroics of song and story abound, 
and dueling was virtually unknown anywhere in the colonies.* 

Increasingly, the planters cultivated learning: they amassed home 
libraries of the best knowledge of the time and they sent their sons to good 
schools in England. Culturally, spiritually, and economically, they felt them- 
selves to be outposts of Europe rather than adjuncts to the wild interior 
of the American continent. Typical of the great Virginia planters was 
William Byrd II. Toward the end of the seventeenth century Byrd was 
sent by his father to school in England. There he had a legal training and 
later studied business methods in Holland, and then was apprenticed to 
a firm of merchants in London. While in London, he became a friend of 
such leading writers as William Congreve; Byrd himself wrote literary 
and scientific papers. Back in Virginia, he corresponded with various 
English noblemen, and amassed one of the best libraries in the colonies — 
over 3,600 volumes — and a handsome collection of paintings by English 
artists. Books in Byrd's and other libraries included works of law, science, 
history, philosophy, the classics, theology, sermons, agriculture — indeed, 
virtually every branch of learning of the time. In addition to the Byrds, some 
of the other ruling planter families by the end of the seventeenth century 
were the Carters, the Fitzhughs, the Beverleys, the Lees, the Masons, 
and the Harrisons. 

For those who could not afford schooling in England, the scattered peo- 
pling of Virginia made education difficult to come by. The planter would 
try to hire a tutor for his children, and often several neighboring planters 
would jointly hire tutors. Often the teachers were indentured servants 
bought from other masters for the purpose. 

Early in the colony's history, King James and the Virginia Company 
tried to found a school, but their efforts came to naught. The first success- 
ful school in Virginia was founded by the planter Benjamin Symmes, 
who in 1635 left 200 acres and eight cows for the education of children from 
Elizabeth City and Kecoughtan parishes. This school was soon established 
as the Symmes Free School. The Eaton Free School was established in 
1659, in Elizabeth City, by Thomas Eaton, with a gift of 500 acres of land. 
These schools began a pattern of many private "free schools" founded by 
wealthy planters of Virginia (generally in their wills). The schools collected 
tuition from parents able to pay, and admitted poor children and orphans 
free. The schools generally taught the three Rs and a little Latin. Children on 
farms remote from the schools were taught, if at all, by their parents or by 
the local parson. 

•Dueling was not a venerable tradition in America, but had to wait until the early nine- 
teenth century: "That refinement of chivalry had to wait until our ancestors had steeped 
themselves in the tales of Sir Walter Scott" (Louis B. Wright, The Cultural Life of the American 
Colonies: 1607-1763 [New York: Harper & Row, Torchbooks, 1962], p. 6). 



The Social Structure of Virginia: 
Bondservants and Slaves 

Until the 1670s, the bulk of forced labor in Virginia was indentured ser- 
vice (largely white, but some Negro); Negro slavery was negligible. In 1683 
there were 12,000 indentured servants in Virginia and only 3,000 slaves of 
a total population of 44,000. Masters generally preferred bondservants for 
two reasons. First, they could exploit the bondservants more ruthlessly 
because they did not own them permanently, as they did their slaves; on 
the other hand, the slaves were completely their owners' capital and hence 
the masters were economically compelled to try to preserve the capital 
value of their human tools of production. Second, the bondservants, looking 
forward to their freedom, could be more productive laborers than the slaves, 
who were deprived of all hope for the future. 

As the colony grew, the number of bondservants grew also, although as 
servants were repeatedly set free, their proportion to the population of Vir- 
ginia declined. Since the service was temporary, a large new supply had 
to be continually furnished. There were seven sources of bondservice, two 
voluntary (initially) and five compulsory. The former consisted partly of 
"redemptioners" who bound themselves for four to seven years, in return 
for their passage money to America. It is estimated that seventy percent 
of all immigration in the colonies throughout the colonial era consisted of 
redemptioners. The other voluntary category consisted of apprentices, 
children of the English poor, who were bound out until the age of twenty- 
one. In the compulsory category were: (a) impoverished and orphaned 
English children shipped to the colonies by the English government; 
(b) colonists bound to service in lieu of imprisonment for debt (the universal 
punishment for all nonpayment in that period); (c) colonial criminals 


who were simply farmed out by the authorities to the mastership of pri- 
vate employers; (d) poor English children or adults kidnapped by profes- 
sional "crimps" — one of whom boasted of seizing 500 children annually for a 
dozen years; and (e) British convicts choosing servitude in America for 
seven to fourteen years in lieu of all prison terms in England. The last were 
usually petty thieves or political prisoners — and Virginia absorbed a large 
portion of the transported criminals. 

As an example of the grounds for deporting political prisoners into bond- 
age, an English law in force in the mid- 1660s banished to the colonies any- 
one convicted three times of attempting an unlawful meeting — a law aimed 
mostly at the Quakers. Hundreds of Scottish nationalist rebels, particularly 
after the Scottish uprising of 1679, were shipped to the colonies as polit- 
ical criminals. An act of 1670 banished to the colonies anyone with knowl- 
edge of illegal religious or political activity, who refused to turn informer 
for the government. 

During his term of bondage, the indentured servant received no mone- 
tary payment. His hours and conditions of work were set absolutely by the 
will of his master who punished the servant at his own discretion. Flight 
from the master's service was punishable by beating, or by doubling or 
tripling the term of indenture. The bondservants were frequently beaten, 
branded, chained to their work, and tortured. The frequent maltreatment 
of bondservants is so indicated in a corrective Virginia act of 1662: 'The 
barbarous usage of some servants by cruel masters being so much scandal 
and infamy to the country . . . that people who would willingly adventure 
themselves hither, are through fears thereof diverted" — thus diminishing 
the needed supply of indentured servants. 

Many of the oppressed servants were moved to the length of open re- 
sistance. The major form of resistance was flight, either individually or in 
groups; this spurred their employers to search for them by various means, 
including newspaper advertisements. Work stoppages were also em- 
ployed as a method of struggle. But more vigorous rebellions also occurred 
especially in Virginia in 1659, 1661, 1663, and 1681. Rebellions of servants 
were particularly pressing in the 1660s because of the particularly large 
number of political prisoners taken in England during that decade. In- 
dependent and rebellious by nature, these men had been shipped to the 
colonies as bondservants. Stringent laws were passed in the 1660s against 
runaway servants striving to gain their freedom. 

In all cases, the servant revolts for freedom were totally crushed and the 
leaders executed. Demands of the rebelling servants ranged from improved 
conditions and better food to outright freedom. The leading example was 
the servant uprising of 1661 in York County, Virginia, led by Isaac Friend 
and William Clutton. Friend had exhorted the other servants that "he 
would be the first and lead them and cry as they went along who would be 
for liberty and freed from bondage and that there would be enough come to 
them, and they would go through the country and kill those who made any 


opposition and that they would either be free or die for it/'* The rebels 
were treated with surprising leniency by the county court, but this un- 
wonted spirit quickly evaporated with another servant uprising in 1663. 

This servant rebellion in York, Middlesex, and Gloucester counties was 
betrayed by a servant named Birkenhead, who was rewarded for his re- 
negacy by the House of Burgesses with his freedom and 5,000 pounds of to- 
bacco. The rebel leaders, however, — former soldiers under Cromwell — were 
ruthlessly treated; nine were indicted for high treason and four actually 
executed. In 1672 a servant plot to gain freedom was uncovered and a Kath- 
erine Nugent suffered thirty lashes for complicity. A law was passed for- 
bidding servants from leaving home without special permits and meet- 
ings of servants were further repressed. 

One of the first servant rebellions occurred in the neighboring Chesa- 
peake tobacco colony of Maryland. In 1644 Edward Robinson and two broth- 
ers were convicted for armed rebellion for the purpose of liberating bond- 
servants. Thirteen years later Robert Chessick, a recaptured runaway 
servant in Maryland, persuaded several servants of various masters to 
run away to the Swedish settlements on the Delaware River. Chessick 
and a dozen other servants seized a master s boat, as well as arms for self- 
defense in case of attempted capture. But the men were captured and 
Chessick was given thirty lashes. As a special refinement, one of Chessick's 
friends and abettors in the escape, John Beak, was forced to perform the 

In 1663 the bondservants of Richard Preston of Maryland went on strike 
and refused to work in protest against the lack of meat. The Maryland 
court sentenced the six disobedient servants to thirty lashes each, with two 
of the most moderate rebels compelled to perform the whipping. Facing 
force majeure, all the servants abased themselves and begged forgiveness 
from their master and from the court, which suspended the sentence on 
good behavior. 

In Virginia a servant rebellion against a master, Captain Sisbey, occurred 
as early as 1638; the lower Norfolk court ordered the enormous total of one 
hundred lashes on each rebel. In 1640 six servants of Captain William 
Pierce tried to escape to the Dutch settlements. The runaways were appre- 
hended and brutally punished, lest this set "a dangerous precedent for the 
future time." The prisoners were sentenced to be whipped and branded, 
to work in shackles, and to have their terms of bondage extended. 

By the late seventeenth century the supply of bondservants began to dry 
up. While the opening of new colonies and wider settlements increased 
the demand for bondservants, the supply dwindled greatly as the English 
government finally cracked down on the organized practice of kidnapping 
and on the shipping of convicts to the colonies. And so the planters turned to 
the import and purchase of Negro slaves. In Virginia there had been 50 

•Abbot E. Smith, Colonists in Bondage. 


Negroes, the bulk of them slaves, out of a total population of 2,500 in 1630; 
950 Negroes out of 27,000 in 1660; and 3,000 Negroes out of 44,000 in 1680-a 
steadily rising proportion, but still limited to less than seven percent of the 
population. But in ten years, by 1690, the proportion of Negroes had jumped 
to over 9,000 out of 53,000, approximately seventeen percent. And by 1700, 
the number was 16,000 out of a population of 58,000, approximately twenty- 
eight percent. And of the total labor force — the working population — this 
undoubtedly reflected a considerably higher proportion of Negroes. 

How the Negro slaves were treated may be gauged by the diary of the 
aforementioned William Byrd II, who felt himself to be a kindly master 
and often inveighed against "brutes who mistreat their slaves." Typical 
examples of this kindly treatment were entered in his diary: 

2-8-09: Jenny and Eugene were whipped. 

5-13-09: Mrs. Byrd whips the nurse. 

6-10-09: Eugene (a child) was whipped for running away and had the bit 

put on him. 
11-30-09: Jenny and Eugene were whipped. 
12-16-09: Eugene was whipped for doing nothing yesterday. 
4-17-10: Byrd helped to investigate slaves tried for "High Treason"; two 

were hanged. 
7-1-10: The Negro woman ran away again with the bit in her mouth. 
7-15-10: My wife, against my will, caused little Jenny to be burned with 

a hot iron. 
8-22-10: I had a severe quarrel with little Jenny and beat her too much for 

which I was sorry. 
1-22-11: A slave "pretends to be sick." I put a branding iron on the 

place he claimed of and put the bit on him. 

It is pointless to criticize such passages as only selected instances of 
cruel treatment, counterbalanced by acts of kindness by Byrd and other 
planters toward their slaves. For the point is not only that the slave system 
was one where such acts could take place; the point is that threats of bru- 
tality underlay the whole relationship. For the essence of slavery is that 
human beings, with their inherent freedom of will, with individual de- 
sires and convictions and purposes, are used as capital, as tools for the bene- 
fit of their master. The slave is therefore habitually forced into types and 
degrees of work that he would not have freely undertaken; by necessity, 
therefore, the bit and the lash become the motor of the slave system. The 
myth of the kindly master camouflages the inherent brutality and savagery 
of the slave system. 

One historical myth holds that since the slaves were their masters' 
capital, the masters' economic self-interest dictated kindly treatment of 
their property. But again, the masters always had to make sure that the 


property was really theirs, and for this, systematic brutality was needed 
to turn labor from natural into coerced channels for the benefit of the mas- 
ter. And, second, what of property that had outlived its usefulness? Of 
capital that no longer promised a return to the master? Of slaves too old 
or too ill to continue earning their masters a return? What sort of treat- 
ment did the economic self-interest of the master dictate for slaves who 
could no longer repay the costs of their subsistence? 

Slaves resisted their plight in many ways, ranging from such nonviolent 
methods as work slowdowns, feigning illness, and flight, to sabotage, arson, 
and outright insurrection. Insurrections were always doomed to failure, 
outnumbered as the slaves were in the population. And yet the slave re- 
volts appeared and reappeared. There were considerable slave plots in 
Virginia in 1687, 1709-10, 1722-23, and 1730. A joint conspiracy of great 
numbers of Negro and Indian slaves in Surry and Isle of Wight counties was 
suppressed in 1709, and another Negro slave conspiracy crushed in Surry 
County the following year. The slave who betrayed his fellows was granted 
his freedom by the grateful master. The 1730 uprising occurred in five coun- 
ties of Virginia, and centered on the town of Williamsburg. A few weeks 
before the insurrection, several suspected slaves were arrested and whipped. 
An insurrection was then planned for the future, but was betrayed and 
the leaders executed. 

Joint flight by slaves and servants was also common during the seven- 
teenth century, as well as joint participation in plots and uprisings. In 1663 
Negro slaves and white indentured servants in Virginia plotted an ex- 
tensive revolt, and a number of the rebels were executed. The colonists 
appointed the day as one of prayer and thanksgiving for being spared the 
revolt. Neither slave nor indentured servant was permitted to marry with- 
out the master's consent; yet there is record of frequent cohabitation, 
despite prohibitory laws. 

It has been maintained in mitigation of the brutality of the American 
slave system that the Negroes were purchased from African chieftains, who 
had enslaved them there. It is true that the slaves were also slaves in 
Africa, but it is also true that African slavery never envisioned the vast 
scope, the massive dragooning of forced labor that marked American plan- 
tation slavery. Furthermore, the existence of a ready white market for 
slaves greatly expanded the extent of slavery in Africa, as well as the in- 
tensity of the intertribal wars through which slavery came about. As is 
usually the case on the market, demand stimulated supply. Moreover, 
African slavery did not include transportation under such monstrous condi- 
tions that a large percentage could not survive, or the brutal "season- 
ing" process in a West Indies way station to make sure that only those fit 
for slave conditions survived, or the continual deliberate breaking up of 
slave families that prevailed in the colonies. 

From the earliest opening of the New World, African slaves were im- 
ported as forced labor to make possible the working of large plantations, 


which, as we have seen, would have been uneconomic if they had had to 
rely, as did other producers, on free and voluntary labor. In Latin America, 
from the sixteenth century on, Negro slavery was used for large sugar plan- 
tations concentrated in the West Indies and on the north coast of South 
America. It has been estimated that a total of 900,000 Negro slaves were 
imported into the New World in the sixteenth century, and two and three- 
quarter million in the seventeenth century.* 

Negroes came into use as slaves instead of the indigenous American 
Indians because: (a) the Negroes proved more adaptable to the onerous 
working conditions of slavery — enslaved Indians tended, as in the Carib- 
bean, to die out; (b) it was easier to buy existing slaves from African chief- 
tains than to enslave a race anew; and (c) of the great moral and spiri- 
tual influence of Father Bartolome de Las Casas in Spanish America, 
who in the mid-sixteenth century inveighed against the enslavement of 
the American Indians. Spanish consciences were never agitated over 
Negro slavery as they were over Indian; even Las Casas himself owned 
several Negro slaves for many years. Indeed, early in his career, Las Casas 
advocated the introduction of Negro slaves to relieve the pressure on the 
Indians, but he eventually came to repudiate the slavery of both races. 
In the seventeenth century two Spanish Jesuits, Alonzo de Sandoval and 
Pedro Claver, were conspicuous in trying to help the Negro slaves, but 
neither attacked the institution of Negro slavery as un-Christian. Undoubt- 
edly one reason for the different treatment of the two races was the gen- 
eral conviction among Europeans of the inherent inferiority of the Negro 
race. Thus, the same Montesquieu who had scoffed at those Spaniards who 
called the American Indians barbarians, suggested that the African Negro 
was the embodiment of Aristotle's "natural slave." And even the environ- 
mental determinist David Hume suspected "the Negroes to be naturally 
inferior to the whites. There scarcely ever was a civilized nation of that 
complexion, nor even an individual, eminent either in action or specula- 
tion. No ingenious manufacturers amongst them, no arts, no sciences. On 
the other hand, the most rude and barbarian of the whites . . . have still 
something eminent about them. . . . Such a uniform and constant difference 
could not happen, in so many countries and ages, if nature had not made 
an original distinction between these breeds of men." 

Contrary to the views of those writers who maintain that Negroes and 
whites enjoyed equal rights as indentured servants in Virginia until the 
1660s, after which the Negroes were gradually enslaved, evidence seems 
clear that from the beginning many Negroes were slaves and were treated 
far more harshly than were white indentured servants.** No white man, 

•Over the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, only about one-fifteenth of the total Negro 
imports into the New World arrived in the territory of what is now the United States. That 
the slaves fared even worse in the Latin American colonies is seen by the far higher death 
rate there than in North America. 

**Cf. Winthrop D. Jordan, "Modern Tensions and the Origins of American Slavery," Jour- 
nal of Southern History (February 1962), pp. 17-30. 


for example, was ever enslaved unto perpetuity — lifetime service for the 
slave and for his descendants — in any English colony. The fact that there 
were no slave statutes in Virginia until the 1660s simply reflected the 
small number of Negroes in the colony before that date.* From a very 
early date, owned Negroes were worked as field hands, whereas white 
bondservants were spared this onerous labor. And also from an early date, 
Negroes, in particular, were denied any right to bear arms. An especially 
striking illustration of this racism pervading Virginia from the earliest 
days was the harsh prohibition against any sexual union of the races. As 
early as 1630 a Virginia court ordered "Hugh Davis to be soundly whipped, 
before an assembly of Negroes and others for abusing himself to the dis- 
honor of God and shame of Christians by defiling his body in lying with a 
Negro." By the early 1660s the colonial government outlawed miscegena- 
tion and interracial fornication. When Virginia prohibited all interracial 
unions in 1691, the Assembly bitterly denounced miscegenation as "that 
abominable mixture and spurious issue."** 

Other regulations dating from this period and a little later included one 
that forbade any slave from leaving a plantation without a pass from his 
master; another decreed that conversion to Christianity would not set a 
slave free, a fact which violated a European tradition that only heathens, 
not Christians, might be reduced to slavery. 

By the end of the seventeenth century, the growing Virginia colony had 
emerged from its tiny and precarious beginnings with a definite social 
structure. This society may be termed partly feudal. On the one hand, 
Virginia, with its abundance of new land, was spared the complete feudal 
mold of the English homeland. The Virginia Company was interested in 
promoting settlement, and most grantees (such as individual settlers and 
former indentured servants) were interested in settling the land for 
themselves. As a result, there developed a multitude of independent yeo- 
men settlers, particularly in the less choice up-country lands. Also, the 
feudal quitrent system never took hold in Virginia. The settlers were 
charged quitrents by the colony or by the large grantees who, instead of al- 
lowing settlers to own the land or selling the land to them, insisted on 
charging and trying to collect annual quitrents as overlords of the land area. 
But while Virginia was able to avoid many crucial features of feudalism, it 
introduced an important feudal feature into its method of distributing land, 
especially the granting of large tracts of choice tidewater river land to fa- 
vorite and wealthy planters. These large land grants would have early dis- 
solved into ownership by the individual settlers were it not for the regime 
of forced labor, which made the large tobacco plantations profitable. Fur- 

*lbid. Jordan cites many evidences of Negro slavery — including court sentences, records of 
Negroes, executions of wills, comparative sale prices of Negro and white servants — dat- 
ing from 1640, before which time the number of Negroes in Virginia was negligible. 

**"Spurious" in colonial legislation meant not simply illegitimate, but specifically the 
children of interracial unions. 


thermore, the original "settlers," those who brought the new land into 
use, were in this case the slaves and bondservants themselves, so it might 
well be said that the planters were in an arbitrary quasi-feudal relation to 
their land even apart from the large grants. 

Temporary indentured service, both "voluntary" and compulsory, and the 
more permanent Negro slavery formed the base of exploited labor upon 
which was erected a structure of oligarchic rule by the large tobacco plant- 
ers. The continuance of the large land tracts was also buttressed by the 
totally feudal laws of entail and primogeniture, which obtained, at 
least formally, in Virginia and most of the other colonies. Primogeniture 
compelled the undivided passing-on of land to the eldest son, and entail 
prevented the land from being alienated (even voluntarily) from the family 
domain. However, primogeniture did not exert its fully restrictive effect, 
for the planters generally managed to elude it and to divide their estate 
among their younger children as well. Hence, Virginia land partly dissolved 
into its natural division as the population grew. Primogeniture and entail 
never really took hold in Virginia, because the abundance of cheap land 
made labor — and hence the coerced supply of slaves — the key factor in pro- 
duction. More land could always be acquired; hence there was no need to 
restrict inheritance to the eldest son. Furthermore, the rapid exhaustion 
of tobacco land by the current methods of cultivation required the planters 
to be mobile, and to be ready to strike out after new plantations. The need 
for such mobility militated against the fixity of landed estates that marked 
the rigid feudal system of land inheritance prevailing in England. Overall, 
the wealth and status of Virginia's large planters was far more precarious 
and less entrenched that were those of their landowning counterparts 
in England. 



Religion in Virginia 

Religion played an extremely significant role in the life of the man of 
the seventeenth century — a century of great religious wars, schisms, and 
revolutions ensuing from the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth 
century. England suffered not only under feudalism, but under its corollary, 
the established state church. Indeed, one of the causes of the Reformation, 
expecially in England, was the desire of the rising absolutism of the Crown 
to bring the church in Great Britain under its domination.* The Church of 
England, appointed and controlled by the Crown, fulfilled this ambition. 

The original founders naturally believed that Virginia would be as rig- 
orously Anglican as the old country itself. King James I — that scholarly 
enthusiast for his own divine right — enjoined the Virginia colonists in 
the first charter of 1606 to propagate the true religion: "We, greatly 
commending . . . the desires for the furtherance of so noble a work, which 
may hereafter tend to the glory of his Divine Majesty, in propagating of 
Christian religion to such people, as yet live in darkness and miserable 
ignorance of the true knowledge and worship of God and man in time bring 
the infidels and savages, living in those parts, to human civility, and to a 
settled and quiet government. . . ." 

Much of the motivation, at least as officially proclaimed, for the founding 
of the colony was the desire to establish a Protestant bulwark against 
Catholic Spain. Many leading Anglican ministers, including John Donne, 
dean of St. Paul's, propagandized for the Virginia Company's settlement 

*As always, a corollary to power was loot, and one of the attractions of the Reformation to 
England was the opportunity it afforded Henry VIII to confiscate the property of the mon- 
asteries and to distribute and sell the seized assets to favorites of the Crown. 


on these grounds. One of the preachers in the earliest settlement, the 
Reverend Alexander Whitaker, wrote a tract, Good News from Virginia, 
which was published by the Virginia Company in 1613 and which pro- 
claimed that to doubt the future of the Virginia colony was to doubt the 
promises of God. 

From the first settlement at Jamestown, the Anglican religion was the 
established church of the colony. The Virginia General Assembly periodi- 
cally enacted laws to compel conformity, but the lure of profits led the 
landowners — eager for new settlers and servants — to relax de facto reli- 
gious pressures on the immigrants, and such laws as compulsory church 
attendance were rarely enforced. 

The new conditions faced in America — the great distance from home, 
the new lands, the freer social structure — caused Virginia's Anglican church 
to develop very differently from the mother church. From the beginning, 
control by the bishop of London was loose, and each church came to be con- 
trolled by its own vestry — elected by vote of its parishioners, but in prac- 
tice by the leading planters of the parish — rather than by the central govern- 
ment of the Church of England. Whereas the governor of Virginia had the 
right to induct ministers for life, the vestries called ministers for a year or 
a term of years, and rarely offered ministers for induction. Thus Virginia 
developed a decentralized — almost a congregational — government in its 
dominant Anglican church. 

Although the church was decentralized, Virginia was nonetheless theo- 
cratic. The affairs of the smallest political unit, the parish, were governed 
by the church vestry, which had the power to levy local taxes. While theoret- 
ically elected by the parishioners, the vestrymen actually filled their own 
vacancies and so became a self-perpetuating oligarchy. 

Informality and decentralization were also fostered by the thin, exten- 
sive settlement of the land; hence the scattering of churches over the 
Virginia countryside. Time and again the high-church hierarchy in England 
deplored the disorder, the neglect of ritual, the informality of prevailing 
low-church Virginia practice. One of Virginia's leading planters, Robert 
Carter, expressed a typical sentiment when in 1720 he wrote: 

I am of the Church of England way. . . . But the high-flown, up-top notions 
and great stress that is laid on ceremonies, any further than decency and 
conformity, are what I cannot come into reason of. Practical godliness is the 
substance — these are but the shell. 

Liberalism in religion, however, proceeded but part way, and the hand of 
theocracy was often evident. Virginia, alarmed at Roman Catholicism 
in the neighboring colony of Maryland, passed an act "Concerning Popish 
Recusants." The act levied the very heavy fine of twenty pounds per month 
for any failure to attend Anglican services. It also imposed life imprison- 
ment and the confiscation of property on anyone who refused to take the 
Oath of Allegiance of 1605. This loyalty oath had been decreed by King 


James I in 1605 as a method of cracking down on Catholics, following the 
abortive Gunpowder Plot. From the granting of the first charter, King 
James had imposed a loyalty oath of allegiance and supremacy on all 
Virginia colonists; refusal was supposed to incur the death penalty. Indeed, 
the laxity of the London Company in enforcing the loyalty oath, caused by 
its desire to encourage settlement, was one of King James' major charges 
against the company that led to its dissolution. 

As a further persecution of the few Roman Catholics — they were virtu- 
ally nonexistent in the colony — the mass and the sacraments were prohib- 
ited, tutoring one's children in the Catholic religion was outlawed, and 
life imprisonment and confiscation of property were decreed for anyone 
sending their children to English-speaking Catholic schools in France or 
Spain. This extreme legislation remained in force until 1662, the Resto- 
ration period, when the act was quietly allowed to lapse. In 1643 a law 
was passed forbidding Catholics from holding office and outlawing all 
priests in the colony. After the Restoration, apart from the imposing of 
oaths of loyalty to the state church for public officials, the theocratic rule 
relaxed somewhat, although the heavy fine for nonattendance at Angli- 
can services continued. Again, a partially mitigating factor was that these 
harsh laws were not always rigorously enforced. Thus, the leading — and 
virtually the only — Catholic family in the colony, headed by planter George 
Brent, a relative of the Maryland Carrolls, was allowed to move to Vir- 
ginia about 1650 and to remain there relatively undisturbed. In Brent's 
case, laxity was encouraged by the thinness of the population in Virginia, 
the virtual nonexistence of Catholics in the colony, and the prominence 
and pronounced royalist sympathies of this tobacco planter. 



The Royal Government 
of Virginia 

From their earliest days, Virginians engaged in conflicts with their 
government. The first open rebellion while Virginia was under royal rule 
occurred in 1635. This arose from a territorial dispute with the new neigh- 
boring colony of Maryland (see below). William Claiborne, a leader of 
the Virginia colony and secretary of its Council, had obtained a royal license 
to establish a fur-trading post on Kent Island, between Maryland and Vir- 
ginia, which he had purchased from the Indians. The Virginia House of 
Burgesses — which included a representative from Kent Island — backed 
Claiborne in his refusal to recognize the overlordship of the Maryland 
feudal proprietor, Lord Baltimore. Egged on by a competing Virginia fur 
traders accusation that Claiborne was inciting the Indians to attack the 
Marylanders, Lord Baltimore ordered the seizure of Claiborne and the 
confiscation of his property. Maryland's ships attacked and seized a vessel 
of Claiborne's, and not only killed several Kent Islanders in the process, 
but also hanged one as a "pirate" after the battle. Governor John Harvey 
of Virginia angered the Virginians by taking the side of Lord Baltimore, 
removing Claiborne from his office as secretary, and jailing an official 
who sided with Claiborne. Harvey here showed his ability to judge the 
winning side, as the Crown also ruled against Claiborne in 1638. This and 
other tyrannical actions by Governor Harvey brought about an open revolt 
by the Council led by Samuel Mathews, a former indentured servant, at 
the head of several hundred armed men. 

Aside from high-handed personal actions, Harvey was accused of making 
unauthorized expenditures, levying export taxes on tobacco and fees on 
each immigrant, and requisitioning ammunition from ships entering the 


colony. However, among the rash of legitimate complaints against Harvey 
was the charge that he had made a dangerous peace with the Indians 
without the Council's consent. It must be remembered that the settlers not 
only protested against despotic actions of the government, but were also 
hell-bent for grabbing as much land as possible from the Indians; accord- 
ingly, peace with the natives was the last thing that the settlers desired. 

Thus the Council was driven to meeting and it "thrust out" Harvey from 
the colony in 1635. Harvey was shipped back to England and Captain John 
West appointed in his place until the king's wishes could be known. As 
soon as he arrived in England, Harvey again showed his character by having 
arrested the two negotiators whom the Council had sent to England to 
plead its case. One of them, Francis Pott, was still languishing in prison 
a year later, and under harsh conditions. 

Harvey was reappointed by the Crown and returned to Virginia in 1637, 
thirsting for vengeance against the rebellious colonists. First, Harvey, 
backed by Lord Baltimore, had his chief enemies arrested for treason and 
hauled to England to appear before the Court of Star Chamber. Those 
arrested included Captain John West, Samuel Mathews, and George 
Menefie, as well as William Claiborne. True to his personal vow that 
he would not leave Captain Mathews with assets "worth a cow's tail," 
Harvey confiscated his enemies' property in Virginia. The Crown, how- 
ever, forced Harvey to disgorge the seized property. Harvey also concluded 
that humor was dangerous to the state, and he consequently arrested 
the Reverend Anthony Panton, rector for some of the leading rebels. 
Panton's crime was apparently calling the man who Harvey had appointed 
secretary of the colony instead of Claiborne, a "jackanapes." The "trial" 
of Panton was conducted by none other than Richard Kemp himself — the 
new secretary in question — who acted as both prosecutor and judge. Sen- 
tence was meted out by Kemp with appropriate severity: the seizure of 
Panton's possessions, his expulsion from his parish, and exile from Vir- 
ginia — with the penalty of death should he return to the colony. Harvey 
also moved to impose a tithing tax on the corn of Panton's parishioners, 
presumably a special punishment for their lack of wisdom in having 
Panton as their rector. 

This monstrous procedure was too much for even the rather callous sen- 
sibilities of the day. The Crown suspended the sentence and finally re- 
moved Harvey in 1639. The decision against Panton was reversed and his 
property and parish restored. The imprisoned Council leaders were re- 
leased and restored to their positions. The "mutiny" of the Virginia leaders 
against Governor Harvey's despotic rule had finally succeeded. It was 
Harvey's successor, Governor Francis Wyatt, who was instructed to convene 
periodic meetings of the Virginia Assembly, thereby making Virginia's 
representative body a permanent one. 

One lasting consequence of Claiborne's colony was the settlement in 
1645 of the Northern Neck of Virginia (the peninsula between the 
Rappahannock and the Potomac rivers) by refugees from Kent Island. 


The most prominent figure in the government of Virginia in the seven- 
teenth century was the governor Sir William Berkeley, whose term of 
office began in 1642 and continued, with interruption, until 1677. In 
contrast to the later years of his term, Berkeley's first years found him a lib- 
eral reformer. The entire poll tax, both the tax paid to the governor and the 
general tax, was repealed; peace was made with the Indians; taxes on es- 
tates were lowered; impoverished debtors in prison were given relief; 
and such relics of Virginia Company oppression as condemnations were 
abolished. In addition, a law was reenacted to prevent the governor and 
the Council from levying any taxes or appropriating any new money ex- 
cept by authority of the Assembly. Berkeley also ended some of the land 
abuses in Virginia by removing arbitrary James River Valley particular- 
plantation grants that had never been settled, and allowing settlers to 
enter these lands and gain title to them. 

Soon after Berkeley took office, the Virginia colony found itself con- 
fronted with a revolution in Great Britain. Staunchly royalist in that era, 
Virginia stood firm for the Crown. Virginia's devotion to the royal cause 
was shaped by its own particular experience. For one thing, Charles I's 
rule in Virginia had been relatively moderate, far different indeed from 
the tyranny he was imposing on England. Virginians had been permitted 
to enjoy more freedom and local rule than Englishmen had ever enjoyed 
before. The oppressive Navigation Acts had not yet been imposed. The 
king had removed the hated John Harvey. Governor Berkeley's reforms 
had been welcomed. Moreover, Anglican-Puritan relations were not 
nearly as exacerbated as in the home country. As we have seen, Virginia's 
own Anglicanism was decidedly low church; the Pilgrim fathers had 
been invited to Virginia in 1620 and an influential moderate Puritan group 
settled, during the 1640s, in southside Virginia. (This is not to say that 
religious liberty prevailed: Puritans were sporadically persecuted and 
dissenting ministers driven from the colony.) Finally, to the Virginians, 
the rule of the old Virginia Company had been far worse than royal rule: 
petitioning against any reimposition of the company, the Assembly ex- 
claimed that the colonists, if under the scepter of the company, would 
be subject to arbitrary rule, their property rights would be taken from them, 
and their freedom of trade — "the blood and life of a commonwealth" — 
would be sacrificed to the monopoly of the company. 

While attached to the Crown, many Virginians protested immediately 
when in 1648 the governor and the Council claimed authority to conscript 
(impress) soldiers without the concurrence of the House of Burgesses, and 
when they proceeded to conscript a ten-man bodyguard for the governor. 
The Assembly gave as one excuse for agreeing to this conscription the ex- 
istence of a "schismatical party" (the Puritans and Dissenters) disaffected 
from the government. 

In 1649, when Parliament had executed Charles I, Virginia stood stub- 
bornly by the Old Order and proclaimed its continued allegiance to the 
House of Stuart. Indeed, the Virginia Assembly denounced the King's ex- 


edition bitterly, defied the proclaimed authority of Parliament, and pro- 
ceeded to uphold this view savagely by decreeing it a crime carrying 
the death penalty for anyone even to defend the execution. In fact, anyone 
making so bold as to question the right of succession of Charles II, or to pro- 
pose any change in the existing government of Virginia, was to be charged 
with high treason. Even speaking any evil of the king was to be punished 
at the arbitrary discretion of governor and Council. Virginia also offered 
refuge to prominent emigres — the Cavaliers, for example, faithful support- 
ers of the Crown. The Cavaliers, largely of wealthy merchant and landed 
families, took their accustomed place among the leading planting families 
in Virginia, including the prominent Lees, Carters, Randolphs, and 
Masons, and, indeed, the bulk of the men who remained as the dominant 
planters of Virginia.* 

In retaliation, Parliament in 1650 passed the embryo of the first Naviga- 
tion Act, which forbade Virginia from trading with foreign countries or 
with any foreign ships lacking a special license — thus hitting at England's 
efficient Dutch competitors. It is instructive that this first important mea- 
sure of restrictive mercantilism was specifically proclaimed to be a punish- 
ment to a rebellious colony. Parliament concluded by denouncing the Vir- 
ginians as rebels and traitors. 

When news of Parliament's punitive action reached Virginia in early 
1651, the reaction of the Virginia rulers was both perceptive and heroi- 
cally defiant. Comparing the situation in Virginia with that in England, 
Governor Berkeley told the Assembly: "Consider yourselves how happy you 
are, and have been, how the gates of wealth and honor are shut on no man, 
and that there is not an arbitrary hand, that dares to touch the substance 
either poor or rich." What can be hoped from submission to parliamentary 
dictates? Now, Berkeley went on, the Virginians enjoyed freedom from 
oppression, peace, and the opportunity to gain wealth, and "the security 
to enjoy this wealth when gotten. . . . We can only fear the Londoners, who 
would fain to bring us to the same poverty, wherein the Dutch found and 
relieved us, would take away the liberty of our consciences, and tongues, 
and our right of giving and selling our goods to whom we please." The 
governor and the members of the Assembly then unanimously adopted a 
"Vindication" for their actions. The Vindication perceptively concluded 
that Parliament was punishing the trade of Virginia in order to appease 
the "avarice of a few interested persons [the big London merchants], who 
endeavor to rob us of all we sweat and labor for." 

In 1652 Parliament sent a fleet with four commissioners to Virginia to 
bring the recalcitrant colony to heel. Fortunately, the commissioners were 
moderates and the instructions liberal. Furthermore, the Virginians, after 

*See Richard L. Morton, Colonial Virginia (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 
1960), 1:166-68. For a rather different account of this immigration, cf. Bernard Bailyn, "Pol- 
itics and Social Structure in Virginia," in Seventeenth-Century America, ed. James M. 
Smith (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1959), pp. 98-100. 


raising an army of over a thousand men, wisely decided that discretion 
was the better part of warfare, and submitted to the commissioners' 
force. In return, the rule of the parliamentary commissioners turned out 
to be liberating rather than vindictively repressive. Not only was the roy- 
alist Berkeley deposed and Commissioner Richard Bennett substituted 
as governor with the agreement of the Burgesses, but executive and judi- 
cial powers were shorn from the governor and the governing power 
placed in the House of Burgesses, the colony's elected house and miniature 
Parliament. The supreme legislative, executive, and judicial power was 
now vested in the House of Burgesses, where at least the Virginians 
themselves could exercise some check on state power. Virginia was de- 
clared "free from all taxes, customs and impositions," and it was af- 
firmed that none could be levied without consent of the Assembly, and 
that no garrisons could be maintained there without the same consent. 
Virginian trade was no longer to be singled out for discriminatory treat- 
ment. Berkeley himself was permitted to retire undisturbed to his Vir- 
ginia estate. 

Again, as in other matters, liberalism went only so far, and all inhab- 
itants who refused to swear an oath of allegiance to Parliament were or- 
dered exiled from the colony. On the other hand, the majority of the people 
of any parish was permitted to keep using the Anglican Book of Common 

Partially in fidelity to its revolutionary principles, partially from pre- 
occupation with pressing affairs at home, Parliament left Virginia pretty 
much alone during the decade of the republic In one sense, too much 
alone — for Bennett and the new secretary of the colony, William Clai- 
borne, the veteran anti-Marylander, determined to take up the cause of 
the Virginia irredenta and forcibly bring Maryland back under the Virginia 
motherland. However, the new lord protector, Oliver Cromwell, soon 
scotched these efforts and in a few years Virginia and Lord Baltimore fin- 
ally settled peacefully the Virginia-Maryland boundary. 

The leading home-rule problem within Virginia, in those years, was the 
grievance of Northampton County on the Eastern Shore. Northampton pro- 
tested in May 1652 against paying poll taxes of forty pounds of tobacco 
when it had not been represented in the Virginia Assembly for five years; 
in short, a cry against taxation without representation. 

There were some difficulties between Governor Samuel Mathews, Jr. 
and the Burgesses during the late 1650s over unauthorized actions of the 
governor as well as his attempt to dissolve the Assembly in a dispute, 
but the disagreements were amicably resolved and the Burgesses left 
in unchallenged control. 

With the collapse of the republican Protectorate in 1659, and the vir- 
tually coincidental death of Governor Samuel Mathews, the Virginia 
House of Burgesses proclaimed its "supreme power" until England should 
reassert a legitimate authority. The Burgesses then voluntarily elected 


the royalist Berkeley governor once more. Achieving total, if temporary, 
independence from Britain, however, did not improve the civil-libertarian 
attitude of the Assembly. For it decreed that anyone who should "say or 
act anything in derogation of the present government" would be punished 
as an enemy of the peace. The election of Berkeley in March 1660 preceded 
the restoration of the monarchy in England by two months, and the new 
king, Charles II, quickly extended the official commission to Berkeley. 
Granting the extreme royalism motivating Virginia's action and its 
purely temporary character, the fact remains that Virginia had the bold- 
ness to battle England, and even to declare a short-lived independence 
from the motherland. Surely, whatever the motives, here was an un- 
witting training ground in revolution, a testing of Virginia's willingness 
to stand on its own feet and defy the mighty imperial country to which 
all the colonists had sworn allegiance. 



British Mercantilism 
over Virginia 

Rule in the European governments of the seventeenth century was 
exercised, not only by the great landowners — through feudalism — but 
also by groups of merchants and capitalists specially privileged and sub- 
sidized by the state, in the system that later came to be known as "mer- 
cantilism." The essence of mercantilism was the granting or selling of 
monopolistic privilege and subsidy by the state to favored groups of bus- 
inessmen. Thus, Crown, feudal nobility, and privileged capitalists 
exercised rule over the exploited remainder of the populace — which in- 
cluded the bulk of merchants and capitalists who sought profit by voluntary 
service in the marketplace rather than by obtaining privileges from the 
coercive power of the state. 

From the beginning, government meddling — especially by the English 
government — fastened the mercantile system on the American colonies. 
As early as 1619, the Crown imposed a duty of one shilling per pound of 
tobacco imported by the Virginia Company and in 1622 prohibited any 
tobacco from being grown in England or Ireland. The motivation for the 
latter act was not to benefit Virginia, but to increase the revenue seized 
by the Crown: domestic tobacco producers, after all, paid no customs duty. 
In 1621 the Crown indeed delivered a grave blow to the company and to 
Virginia by prohibiting the colonists from exporting tobacco (or any other 
commodity) to any foreign country without first landing in England and 
paying customs duty there. It was in vain that the company protested that 
other English subjects and companies were allowed to sell their goods in 
the best markets, that the edict would cripple the tobacco-cattle trade 
with Ireland, that many Virginia products were not salable in England. 


The sweetener for the company in this network of restriction was the 
granting, in 1622, to the Virginia Company of the monopoly privilege of 
importing tobacco into England and Ireland. The supposedly liberal Sir 
Edwin Sandys had led the intracompany fight to accept the monopoly, and 
he and his faction were appointed to manage the monopoly, at extrav- 
agant salaries. 

In the period of the republic, Parliament — as we have seen hardly re- 
luctant to impose mercantile restrictions for the benefit of merchant 
groups — began the famous series of Navigation Acts. In 1650 it outlawed 
foreign ships from trading in the colonies without a license, thus striking 
a blow at efficient Dutch shipping. The following year, it decreed that 
no goods from Asia, Africa, or America could be imported into England or 
its colonies except when the owner and most of the crew were English or 
English-American. It also prohibited imports of foreign goods in entrepot 
trade — from countries where the product did not originate, prohibited 
the importation of fish by aliens, and outlawed all participation of for- 
eign ships in the English coastal trade. 

These were blows to the efficiency and prosperity of interregional trade, 
and to the property, actual and potential, of the colonies, all for the special 
privileges accorded to inefficient shipowners. To enforce these sweeping 
prohibitions required a bureaucratic apparatus mighty for the time and 
place, including a network of paid government informers. So strict was 
the enforcement that not enough English vessels existed to replace the 
outlawed Dutch shipping, and grave complaints of shortages spread through- 
out the English colonies in the Americas — including the West Indies. The 
rebellious Virginia Assembly asserted in 1655 that freedom of trade would 
be maintained, and demanded that sea captains pay bond not to molest 
Dutch or other foreign shipping. 

England, however, continued to tighten its mercantile restrictions, es- 
pecially after monarchical rule had been restored. Thus, the Navigation 
Act of 1660 provided that no goods whatever could be imported into or ex- 
ported from any English colony except in English-owned ships (of which at 
least three-fourths of the crew must be English), and compelled certain 
important enumerated colonial products (including tobacco) to be shipped 
only to England — thus outlawing colonial export trade in these goods to any 
other country. All ships leaving the colonies were required to give bond 
that they would not ship the goods elsewhere. The Navigation Act of 1662 
extended these privileges: all future ships not built in English shipyards 
were now to be excluded from this colonial trade. 

The mercantilist structure of the Navigation Acts was completed in 1662 
with the exclusion of all European goods (except for a few commodities) 
from the colonial market except as shipped from English ports and in En- 
glish-built ships. Colonial governors were charged with the responsibility 
of enforcement of the navigation laws, but in practice the power was del- 
egated to a naval officer appointed in England. 


The navigation laws continued to be tightened still further. The Nav- 
igation Act of 1673 moved against the attempt of the planters to maintain 
some of their tobacco trade by selling to other colonies. The act placed a pro- 
hibitive tax of one penny on each pound of tobacco shipped from one colony 
to another, and appointed customs commissioners to collect the duty. This 
act crippled the flourishing tobacco trade with New England. More sweep- 
ing was the Navigation Act of 1696, which confined all colonial trade to 
English-built ships, enlarged the powers of the colonial naval officers, and 
gave the provincial custom officers the right of forcible entry, which they al- 
ready enjoyed in England. The act led to the establishment of vice admir- 
alty courts in the colonies to enforce the regulations. Operating under 
Roman law, a vice admiralty court could try and convict without having 
to submit the cases to colonial juries, which were almost unanimous in 
their sympathy with any arraigned smugglers. 

We have mentioned the drastic fall in the prices of tobacco in the 
seventeenth century. Much of this drop was due not to the great expansion 
of the Virginia tobacco crop, but to the Navigation Acts and their smash- 
ing of the export market for tobacco in Holland and other countries in 
Europe. Before the Navigation Acts, the Dutch had paid three pence per 
pound for Virginia tobacco; after the acts, the tobacco price had fallen to 
half a penny per pound by 1667. The fall was aggravated by the heavy 
losses of the English tobacco fleet in the wars with Holland (the Dutch wars 
of 1664-67 and 1672-73). To offset the crisis, Virginia turned to domestic 
mercantilism: compulsory cartels to raise tobacco prices. But since such an 
increase could only be accomplished by coerced restrictions on tobacco 
acreage, this meant that tobacco markets were not being widened, and 
prosperity could not be restored to the colony as a whole. In a compulsory 
tobacco cartel, some tobacco producers could only benefit at the expense 
of others, and of the rest of the colony's population. In brief, quotas based 
on existing production must privilege the inefficient grower and the large 
grower about to fall behind in the competitive race, and discriminate 
against the efficient, and the new up-and-coming planters. In the "Plant- 
Cutting Riots" of 1682, the planters benefiting from the quotas organized 
bands of vandals to go from plantation to plantation destroying the tobacco 

The protection from foreign competition accorded by the Navigation 
Acts to British shippers not only ruined the Virginians' tobacco market 
(and that of neighboring Maryland's planters as well); it also raised 
the prices of the gamut of imported goods now confined to British ships. 
Thus, Virginians suffered doubly from the imperial restrictions. 

English enforcement of the Navigation Acts was unfortunately rigorous, 
especially in the Southern colonies. Three wars of aggression against the 
Dutch between 1652 and 1675 drove the Dutch — the more efficient of 
England's competitors — out of the Chesapeake trade. The very geography 
of the Chesapeake Bay area made enforcement easy: the English navy 


needed only to control the narrow entrance of the bay to keep foreign ships 
from buying or selling to the Virginia or Maryland plantations. 

Thus, the English orientation of Virginia trade and finance was com- 
pelled by the Navigation Acts, which gravely injured Virginians and re- 
tarded Virginia development. Furthermore, the canker of slavery was 
also due partly to the Navigation Acts. The economic pressure of the acts 
on the planters led them to look to slavery as a way to cut costs by exploit- 
ing forced labor. Moreover, the English government forbade Virginia 
from restricting the infamous slave trade, the monopoly of which had by 
the wars against the Dutch been assured to British traders. 

John Bland, a London merchant who had traded with the Dutch in 
Virginia tobacco, presented the excellent case of the Chesapeake planters 
against the Navigation Acts — but, unfortunately, to no avail. 

Added to the devastation caused by the Navigation Acts was the burden 
of increased taxes. In addition to the crippling penny a pound on all coastal 
tobacco trade imposed in 1673, the hated poll tax was reimposed, In his 
first years of rule, Governor Berkeley had abolished the poll tax, which, 
being levied equally on all, particularly burdened the poorer strata of the 
population. In 1674, however, when Berkeley reintroduced the poll tax, 
a number of farmers assembled with their arms in Kent County to prevent 
collection of the new taxes, by force if necessary. This incipient tax rebel- 
lion was dispersed upon Berkeley's proclamation that tax rebels would be 
accounted guilty of treason and punished accordingly. 

Greatly adding to the grievances of most Virginians was the steady 
accumulation, ever since his reappointment, of absolute rule in the hands 
of Governor Berkeley and his clique of allies in the great planter oligarchy. 
No sooner was he reappointed governor than Berkeley seized control of 
the House of Burgesses: he filled the seats with his own henchmen and 
repudiated the Virginia tradition of frequent elections. In fact, he refused 
to call any election for the House of Burgesses from 1661 on, and only called 
meetings of the Assembly at his pleasure. Any recalcitrant burgesses 
were bribed with public offices, all of which were appointed by the gover- 
nor. Berkeley's absolute control of the Council — always dominated by the 
governor — was assured by the fact that the bulk of the councillors were 
allowed to die without being replaced, were not called together, or 
were out of reach. Now Berkeley was in full control of both houses of the 
Assembly. In 1670 Berkeley and the Assembly further tightened oligarchic 
control by taking the franchise away from nonlandowners, Berkeley also 
assumed supreme judicial power as president of the General Court of the 
colony. Oligarchic control by the leading planters over local government 
was further tightened; the vestries, for example, became self-perpetuat- 
ing local governing bodies. County courts, made up of the great planters, 
met in secret to impose the county levy, which more and more placed tax 
burdens on the poor. Exorbitant fees were paid to sheriffs, clerks, and 
other local officials out of these taxes, and there was considerable graft 


involved in the heavy expenditures needed to construct forts westward 
on the rivers. 

Power is always used to acquire wealth, and here was no exception. 
Berkeley and his allies granted themselves the best lands, most of the 
public offices, and a monopoly of the lucrative fur trade with the Indians. 
Another of Berkeley's tyrannical actions was to have the Assembly re- 
establish the Anglican church, and also to bring pressure for a governmental 
college that would include Anglican teaching of the youth. 

Whenever anyone in the American colonies in the seventeenth 
century decided to embark on a policy of tyranny and religious persecution, 
the first group to bear the brunt was usually the hapless Quakers — of all 
sects the least devoted to idolatry of church or state. Upon embarking on 
the dictatorial rule of his second term, Governor Berkeley did not hesitate 
to revive the old laws against Dissenters, and naturally concentrated on 
the handful of Quakers. An English Quaker, George Wilson, upon arriving 
at Jamestown in 1661, was thrust into a dungeon, scourged, and kept 
in irons until death. While dying, he wrote, in a truly saintly manner: 
"For all their cruelty I can truly say, Father, forgive them, they know not 
what they do." The previous year 1660, the Assembly had passed an act 
outlawing "an unreasonable and turbulent sort of people commonly called 
Quakers . . . [who are] endeavoring ... to destroy religion, laws, communi- 
ties and all bonds of civil society." Apparently these "bonds of civil society" 
were to rest, not on voluntary consent, but on the dungeon and the tor- 
ture rack. 

In 1662 Berkeley decreed heavy fines on any Nonconformists who refused 
to have their children baptized, and threatened to exile any ship masters 
who brought any Dissenters into the colony. The next year two Quaker 
women entered Virginia, spreading the message in the colony. The two, 
Mary Tomkins and Alice Ambrose, were imprisoned and inflicted with 
thirty-two lashes from a whip of nine cords. After this their property was 
seized and they were expelled from Virginia. 

It stands to reason that a man with this sort of attitude toward religious 
liberty and search for truth should be vehemently hostile toward education, 
freedom of inquiry, and individual and collective search for the truth. 
We are fortunate to have on record, however, a classic statement by 
Berkeley, revealing the despot's fury toward learning and free inquiry. 
When asked in 1671 by the Crown what he had been doing to instruct the 
people in the Christian religion, Berkeley, in the course of his answer, 
declared: "I thank God, there are no free schools nor printing and I hope 
we shall not have these hundred years; for learning has brought disobe- 
dience, and heresy and sects into the world, and printing has divulged 
them, and libels against the best government. God keep us from both!" 
Learning and culture apparently were to be reserved to the safe hands 
of the ruling class, and were not to be permitted the ruled, who might 
learn enough to want to cast off their chains. 


The inherent conflicts within Virginia's society, as well as between 
Virginia and England, were further aggravated by an enormous land grant 
made by Charles II to Lord Hopton and a group of his friends, including 
Berkeley's brother, Sir John, in 1649. This was a grant of over five million 
acres, constituting the partially settled Northern Neck of Virginia be- 
tween the Potomac and Rappahannock rivers. The Hopton grant was 
assigned to Lord Culpeper in 1689. Even more startling was the joint 
proprietary grant of all Virginia in 1673 to two royal favorites, Lords Arling- 
ton and Culpeper, for a term of thirty-one years. The latter grant generated 
fierce opposition in Virginia because, for one thing, the Crown had been 
collecting the quitrents on Virginia lands in haphazard fashion, whereas 
Lords Culpeper and Arlington could be expected to make the best out of 
their feudal grant. The new proprietors were given the power to estab- 
lish churches and schools, to appoint ministers and teachers. And they 
were given the power to appoint the sheriffs and other officers to grant 
lands and to create towns and counties. 

Suddenly the Virginians were now confronted with the specter of 
absolute proprietary feudal rule, as well as the deprivation of all their 
liberties and their considerable measure of home rule. Indeed, no guar- 
antees for the rights of Virginians were included in the Arlington-Culpeper 

The alarmed Assembly met the following year (1674) and protested that 
the grants would threaten the rights of the people, impose upon them new 
rents and dues, new grants and levies, and deprive them of the present 
protection of their rights and properties. The Virginians insisted that 
they wanted no privileged proprietors, whether individuals or chartered 
company, standing between them and the Crown and exploiting them 
still more. At heavy expense the Assembly sent commissioners to London 
to ask for removal of the grant. The negotiators eventually persuaded 
Lords Arlington and Culpeper to abandon all claims on the colony except 
quitrents and escheats (revenue from intestate estates). Pressures by the 
indignant Virginians had ended the threat of proprietary government over 
the Virginia colony. 

In the course of the negotiations, the commissioners and the two pro- 
prietors agreed that Virginia should buy back the vast Northern Neck 
grant for £400 to each proprietor, and that the quitrents on the remaining 
lands should continue to be paid to the Crown, thus ending feudal quit- 
rents in the colony. The proprietary grant of 1673 was to be revoked and no 
further grants made without consulting the Virginia Council. 

A new liberal charter in preparation would have provided that the gov- 
ernor and the members of the Council of Virginia must be residents of 
the colony and that no taxes could be imposed on Virginia without consent 
of the House of Burgesses. The charter drawn up by the king's solicitor- 
general declared that the taxation provision "contains that which we 


humbly conceive to be the right of Virginians, as well as all other English- 
men, which is, not to be taxed but by their consent, expressed by their 
representatives! 1 Unfortunately this new charter was blocked upon the 
outbreak of rebellion in Virginia in 1676. 

Neither did the losses suffered by Berkeley's administration in the Dutch 
War, during 1673, endear the government to the people of Virginia. One 
of the principal motives of the aggressive English war against the Dutch, 
beginning in 1672, was to drive the Dutch out of the Virginia trade. The 
Dutch attacked Virginia and succeeded in sinking eleven Virginia mer- 
chantmen laden with tobacco. Neither the war nor the losses were 
calculated to gain the support of the populace; indeed, many Virginians 
oppressed by English rule welcomed the Dutch invasion and the prospec- 
tive shift of sovereignty to the Netherlands. 

If we consider then the situation in Virginia in the mid- 1670s we can 
see the accumulation of grievances and the aggravation of conflicts: the 
sudden feudal proprietary grant of all Virginia to Lords Arlington and 
Culpeper in 1673; the exclusive landed property franchise in 1670; the 
reimposition of the poll tax in 1674, and the general increase in taxation; 
and the establishment of tight rule by the Berkeley clique. To these we 
might add Berkeley's persecution of the Dissenters, virtually driving 
them out of the colony. 

Hints of revolt and mutiny against Berkeley began to emerge in the 
1670s. On December 12, 1673, fourteen people met at Lawnes Creek 
Parish Church in Surry County to protest against excessive taxation and to 
insist that they would thereafter refuse to pay their taxes. Here was one of 
the first tax rebellions, or organized refusals to pay taxes, in America. 
On January 3, the very day that Berkeley's judges issued a writ to haul 
the fourteen into court for "sedition," the group met again in a field 
and one of their leaders, Roger Delke, declared that "we will burn all 
before one shall suffer." Berkeley lost no time in hauling the rebels into 
court where Delke explained that they had met "by reason their taxes 
were so unjust, and they would not pay it." Very heavy fines were levied 
on the protesters, especially on the main leader of the Surry tax protest, 
Matthew Swan, who continued to insist that the taxes were unjust. 
Proceedings against Swan lasted longer than against the others, and in 
April 1674 Swan was brought before the Council and General Court of 
Virginia for his "dangerous contempt and unlawful project and his wicked 
persisting in the same." Berkeley was forced, however, by popular resent- 
ment at the treatment accorded the tax rebels, to remit all the fines 
some months later. 

Many of the tax strikers were prominent landowners of the county. 
Matthew Swan was possibly related to Colonel Thomas Swann, a mem- 
ber of the Council; Delke's father had been a member of the House of 
Burgesses. Several other protesters were related to former burgesses, 


and one was a relative of one of the judges issuing a writ for their arrest. 
Furthermore, a near uprising was called off in 1674 and two mutinies 
occurred in the following year. All in all, the stage was set for one of the 
most important American armed rebellions against English authority in 
the colonial era: Bacon's Rebellion of 1676. 



Relations with the Indians 

The spark that set off the great rebellion of 1676 came from the rinderbox 
of Indian relations. To explain them we must first go back to chart the 
history of Indian-white relations in seventeenth-century Virginia. 

First, we may ask, how did the colonists go about the task urged upon 
them by King James, of bringing "the infidels and savages living in those 
parts [the native American Indians] to human civility'? Generally we 
may say that the native American Indians regarded the newcomers 
with a mixture of brotherly kindness and eagerness to make contact with 
the world outside; this, however, was countered by hostility based on the 
well-founded fear that the colonists were out to seize their lands. The 
whites generally regarded the Indians as possessors of land ripe for expro- 
priation. This attitude of the whites was partially justified, as Indian land 
was typically owned not by the individual, but by the collective tribal 
unit, and furthermore was inalienable under tribal law. This was partic- 
ularly true of the land itself as contrasted to its annual use. Furthermore, 
tribal law often decreed land ownership over large tracts of even unused 
acreage. Still, however, this land inequity provided no excuse for the 
physical dispersion of individual Indians from their homes and from land 
actually used, let alone the plundering of their crops and the slaughtering 
of the Indian people. 

Relations with the Indians were therefore a combination of hostility 
and friendship, underlain by the relentless white urge to push westward. 
Thus, from the very beginning of the Virginia colony, the Indians first 
attacked the whites, only to save the starving infant colony a few months 
later by coming to its rescue with abundant gifts of bread, meat, fish, and 


corn. A few years of conflict was followed by the peace of 1614, which 
was effectively wrecked two years later by Governor Yeardley's seizure 
of corn from the Chickahominy Indians — an ironic contrast to the Indians' 
supplying needed corn to the infant colony. From that point on, relations 
with the Indians began to deteriorate. Captain Argall, upon assuming his 
duties as governor, decided that the colonists were too friendly with the 
Indians, and took harsh steps to rectify this error. He outlawed all private 
trading with the Indians, and prohibited the hiring of Indian hunters 
for the shooting of game. Worse still, Argall decreed the death penalty 
both for anyone teaching an Indian the use of a gun and for the Indian eager 
to learn. Thus, Argall moved to cripple the economy of the whites and 
Indians alike; but perhaps trade and education were not considered part 
of the "civilizing process." (Guns, of course, as in the case of most 
weapons, can be used for offense or defense, for highly productive eco- 
nomic — hunting — as well as for martial purposes.) 

When the Virginia Assembly first convened in 1619, a part of its liberal 
reforms forbade any injury to the Indians that might disturb the peace. 
The brief period of peaceful coexistence, however, was shattered in 1622, 
when Opechancanough, head of the Powhatan confederacy, led an all- 
out surprise attack against the colonists. The colony survived but the 
massacre of over 350 colonists — almost one-fourth of the colony — embittered 
the whites from that point on, even though the colonists were very quick 
to wreak vengeance on the Indians, destroying as many crops, homes, 
and Indians as they could.* During the crisis every settled community 
was placed under absolute martial rule, and any communication with 
an Indian was outlawed except by consent of the commander. 

Perhaps the most unfortunate aspect of the affair, for its long-run conse- 
quence in poisoning Indian-white relations in Virginia, was the white 
aggression later in 1622 against the friendly Potomac Indians. The power- 
ful Potomac tribe had refused to join the Powhatan confederacy plot to 
massacre the whites, and indeed had helped to save the colony from de- 
struction by warning the colonists of Opechancanough's plot. While 
on an expedition to the Potomacs to obtain corn, Captain Isaac Madison 
allowed himself to believe, without proof, the false tale of an exiled 
Potomac chief and of a renegade Polish interpreter, Robert Poole, that the 
Potomacs were planning to massacre the expedition. Madison then kid- 
napped the Potomac king and suddenly attacked and massacred any 
Potomac Indian he could lay his hands on. 

From then on, savage treachery marked the actions of both sides, and 
relations were permanently embittered. Most vicious was the colonists' 
invitation to the Indians in 1623 for a peace parley, at which the whites 
poisoned two hundred Indian leaders and shot fifty others, taking home 
the scalps of many Indians with them. Doubtless worst of all, the colonists 

•The massacre was also seized as one of the Crowns excuses for dispossessing the Vir- 
ginia Company. 


adopted the barbaric policy of deliberately seeking out and destroying all 
Indian plantings of corn. Total war by any means was now the watch- 
word, and no peace was even contemplated. When the Virginia Company 
leaders expressed shock at this despicable method of making war by 
breaking treaties, poisoning peace negotiators, etc, the Virginians re- 
plied: "Whereas we are advised by you to observe rules of justice ... we 
hold nothing injust that may tend to their ruin. . .with these [enemies] 
neither fair war nor quarter is ever to be held." 

For years after the massacre, the attitude of the whites was continued 
aggression against the Indians, who were simply considered "unreconcil- 
able enemies." Laws were passed prohibiting any trading with the 
Indians. Peace for a time was unthinkable; as we have seen, one of 
the main charges against Governor Harvey was making peace with the 
Indians. Finally, however, the advantages of peaceful and mutually bene- 
ficial trade with the natives began to become evident and the law to be 
ignored by enterprising individuals in the colony. During the first Berkeley 
administration, a treaty of "peace and friendship" was made with the 
Indians in 1642 and the laws against trading with the natives were 

Unfortunately, the fair prospects for genuine peace were once again 
ruptured by the old chief Opechancanough, the very man responsible for 
the tragic massacre twenty-two years earlier. Opechancanough was a 
hard-liner who would settle for nothing less than total victory over the 
whites, whom he regarded as invaders of the land. He certainly had a point: 
the whites were indeed adept at land grabbing; but the point was not good 
enough. A genuine climate of peaceful coexistence could have permitted 
voluntary purchase of Indian lands and white settlement on lands which 
the Indians, while grandiosely claiming them, were not really using. 
But Opechancanough, hearing of civil war in England, decided that "now 
was his time or never, to root out all the English" and drive them into 
the sea. Again, in April 1644, Opechancanough organized a surprise 
massacre that killed 500 settlers — a greater number than earlier but, of 
course, a vastly smaller proportion of the colony. 

One of the problems of a hard line is that it begets hard-lining by the other 
side, and this massacre came at a time when genuine peace seemed 
at hand. The English quickly counterattacked, burning Indian villages 
and destroying their corn. Opechancanough was taken prisoner and shot 
in the back by one of the Virginia soldiers. 

The Indians then sued for peace, but unfortunately the peace treaty of 
1646, instead of providing for peaceful trade and other contacts between 
the two peoples, forced the Indians to cede territory and drew arbitrary 
boundaries beyond which the Indians were forbidden to come. More- 
over, neither the Virginians nor the Indians were permitted to go into 
each other's territory on pain of very heavy punishment, and trading could 
only be conducted at certain specified — and therefore monopolized — forts. 


This type of quasi-peace greatly restricted white exploration and settle- 
ment of Virginia west of the fall line, as well as fruitful trade with the 
Indian people. 

Since a few military forts were given the monopoly privilege of all 
trade with the Indians, the commander of each fort now occupied a 
highly lucrative and privileged position in the colony. The Virginia govern- 
ment not only built the forts, but granted them and their surrounding 
land to their commanders. Typical was Captain Abraham Wood, a former 
indentured servant of Samuel Mathews, who was placed in command 
of the most important of these forts, Fort Henry, at the Appomattox falls. 
Settling there for thirty years, Wood exploited his position as sole authorized 
trader for the area; often he had to guard his pack trains against the use of 
force by rival traders understandably resentful at Wood's compulsory 
monopoly of the Indian trade. The town at the fort took the name of Wood, 
and Wood acquired over 6,000 acres of plantation land in the neighbor- 
hood. He was also for many years a councillor of the colony. 

Yet the inexorable march of settlement westward could not be halted, 
and once again the English came to settle near the Indians. The arbitrary 
peace terms of the 1646 treaty clearly needed revision. Happily, after 
1656 an Indian found without a badge in white territory was no longer 
liable to be shot and all freemen were allowed to trade with the Indians. 
Other provisions of the new law constituted a rather limited advance: 
for example, Indian children kidnapped as hostages were not to be 
treated simply as slaves, but to be trained as Christians and taught a trade. 
Other policies were so arbitrary as to deal unjustly not only with the 
Indians, but also with the white settlers. Thus, in 1653, as supposed com- 
pensation to the Indians, lands in York County were set aside and reserved 
for them, even though this meant that already existing white settlers 
had to be forcibly removed. 

However, peace and justice to the Indian, as always, went only so far. 
In 1656 several hundred Indians settled near the falls of the James River, 
which the whites had decided was to be barred from any Indians — even 
peaceful settlers. The Assembly sent Colonel Edward Hill with an armed 
force to drive out the Indians; though joined by Indian allies, the attacking 
force was smashed by Indian defenders near the present site of Richmond. 
Hill met not with sympathy for his defeat, but with an angry Assembly 
that tried him and unanimously found him guilty of crimes and weak- 
nesses and suspended him from his posts. 

The relatively sound peace of 1656 with the Indians was shattered 
by the onset of the second Berkeley administration. It is not surprising 
that Berkeley's onslaught on the liberties and rights of Virginians should 
have extended to Indian relations. His first step, in 1661, was the suppres- 
sion of free trade with the Indians and the reviving of trading monopoly. 
The Assembly decreed that henceforth no one might trade with the 
Indians without a commission from the governor, who, of course, would 

license only "persons of known integrity" rather than the "diverse ill- 
minded, idle, and unskillful people" currently engaged in the trade. The 
Assembly followed this with a decree outlawing all trade by Marylanders 
and Indians north of Virginia with the Virginia Indians, thus further 
tightening the trading monopoly. Ironically, the old trade monopolist 
Abraham Wood, now a Colonel, was charged with the enforcement of 
this prohibition. 

The next year, Captain Giles Brent, one of the leading planters of the 
Northern Neck, hauled the chief of the Potomac Indians, Wahanganoche, 
into court on the false charges of high treason and murder. And even though 
Wahanganoche was acquitted and his false accusers forced to pay him an 
indemnity for the wrongs suffered, the Assembly arrogantly proceeded to 
require the Potomac and other northern tribes to furnish as hostages a 
number of Indian children, to be enslaved and brought up by whites. 

It is no wonder that under this treatment the Indians of Virginia began 
to get a bit restive, a restiveness due also, as the Assembly admitted, to 
"violent intrusions of diverse English" into Indian lands. But this was only 
the beginning of white aggression. In 1665-66 the Assembly set further 
arbitrary bounds to Indian settlement, pushing back the Indians once 
more. It also prohibited any white sales of guns and ammunition to the In- 
dians, and decreed that the governor select the chieftains for the Indian 
tribes. Militarism was imposed on the white settlers by ordering them 
to go armed to all public meetings, including church services. Even col- 
lective guilt was imposed on the Indians, it being provided that if an In- 
dian murdered a white man, all the people of the neighboring Indian 
town would be "answerable for it with their lives or liberties." But this 
law taxed even the often elastic consciences of the Virginians of the day, 
and was soon repealed. 

During the same year 1666, Governor Berkeley declared war on the Doeg 
and Potomac tribes, as an even more massive form of collective guilt and 
punishment for various crimes committed over the years by individual In- 
dians against individual whites. But since this act of slaughter was called 
"war," even its far greater magnitude did not evoke the reproofs of con- 
science following upon the collective punishment of the previous year. By 
the end of the sixties, the Indians had been so effectively cowed and sup- 
pressed that the administration believed the situation well in hand. In 
the words of Berkeley, "The Indians ... are absolutely subjected, so that 
there is no fear of them." 

But Governor Berkeley was soon to learn that the use of terror and sub- 
jection does not always quiet fears. Particularly aggrieved was the Doeg 
tribe, which had been attacked and expelled from its lands by the Ber- 
keley adminstration. The Doegs found new compatriots in the Susque- 
hannocks, a powerful tribe that had been expelled from its lands at the 
head of the Chesapeake Bay by the Seneca nation, and had then settled on 
inadequate lands on the Potomac River in Maryland. In July 1675 the Doegs, 


who had also settled across the Potomac, found that a wealthy Virginia 
planter, Thomas Mathew, refused to pay them a debt, which they were 
not allowed to collect in the Virginia courts. They decided therefore to 
collect the debt themselves, and a party of Doegs crossed the river and took 
some hogs from Mathew. The Virginians immediately pursued the Indi- 
ans upriver, and not only recovered the hogs, but killed the Indians. 
Again, the Indians had no recourse against this murder in the Virginia 
courts, and so they decided to exact punishment themselves. They raided 
and devastated the Mathew plantation — rough if inexact justice — in the 
course of which one of Mathew's herdsmen was killed. 

Arrant self-righteousness and a flagrant double standard of morality are 
often characteristic of the side with the superior weapons in any dispute, 
for its one-sided version of morality can be supported by force of arms if 
not by force of logic. Such was the case with the white Virginians: mur- 
dering a group of Indians whose only crime was the theft of a few hogs 
(and this justified as the only available means of collecting a debt) was, 
well, just one of those things; whereas retaliatory retribution against 
the one white largely responsible for the whole affair was apparently con- 
sidered so monstrous that any method of vengeance against the Indians 
was justified. When the razing of the Mathew plantation became 
known, Major George Brent and Colonel George Mason — leading perse- 
cutors of Chief Wahanganoche a decade before — gathered an armed force 
and invaded Maryland. Upon finding the Indians, Brent asked for a peace 
parley, at which he seized and then shot the Doeg chief (thus continuing 
a white tradition of treachery in dealing with Indians). Brent followed 
this up by shooting ten other Indians who had then tried to escape. Ma- 
son's party shot fourteen other fleeing Indians, many of whom were Sus- 
quehannocks, up to now wholly friendly to the whites, and who had not par- 
ticipated in Doeg actions. The Susquehannocks were now naturally em- 

The treachery at the peace parley and the murdering of twenty-four In- 
dians only began the massive white retaliation. Berkeley completely ig- 
nored the protest of the Maryland governor against the Virginian invasion 
of its territory and the killing of innocent Indians. Instead, on August 31, 
1675, Berkeley called together the militia officers of the Northern Neck 
counties, led by Colonel John Washington, and armed them with powers 
to organize the militia and to "demand satisfaction" or take any other 
course necessary against the Indians. This could include "attack and such 
executions upon the Indians as shall be found necessary and just." The of- 
ficers duly organized the militia and secured aid from the Maryland gov- 
ernment. A full-fledged war of aggression against the Indians was then 
unleashed by Virginia and Maryland. On September 26, the joint Virginia- 
Maryland force besieged the main fort of the Susquehannocks on the 
Maryland side of the Potomac, and sought to starve the Indians into sub- 
mission. An army of 1,000 whites surrounded 100 Indian braves and their 


women and children. On the invitation of Major Thomas Truman, head of 
the Maryland force, five of the Susquehannock chiefs came out to parley 
and seek peace. When the chiefs asked what the army was doing there, 
Major Truman declared that they were retaliating for various outrages, 
and he proceeded to murder them on the spot. Even a silver medal held up 
by one chief, a token of a supposedly permanent pledge of protection by a 
former governor of Maryland, was of no avail in saving his life. The star- 
ving mass of Indians finally escaped their tormentors by rushing out at 
night in a surprise breakout, and fled into Virginia, where during January 
they retaliated against many of the frontier plantations. One of the plan- 
tations raided was that of Nathaniel Bacon, Jr., a leading planter and one 
of the councillors of the colony.* 

Ready to send out an even larger armed force against the Indian party, 
Berkeley received word from the Indians that, having killed ten whites for 
each of their chiefs murdered at the peace parley, they were ready to make 
peace and ask for compensation for damages. Grateful for a chance to stop 
the spiraling bloodshed, Berkeley disbanded his new army. But when Berkeley 
categorically rejected the peace offer as violating honor and self-interest, the 
Indian raids continued. Instead of peace, Berkeley and his Assembly de- 
cided on an uneasy compromise: a declaration of war not only against all 
Indians guilty of injuring white persons or property, but'also against those 
who had refused to aid and assist the whites in uncovering and destroying 
the guilty Indians. However, Berkeley also decided to fight a defensive 
rather than an offensive war by constructing at great expense ten forts 
facing the enemy at the heads of the principal rivers, and by not attacking 
the Indians unless they were attacked themselves. The large force needed 
to garrison these forts was financed by burdensome new taxes, which ag- 
gravated Virginia's grievances against the Berkeley regime. 

It is another common rule that militarization of a society ostensibly to 
bring force majeure against an enemy often succeeds also (or even only) in 
bringing that force against the very society being militarized. Thus, sol- 
diers, conscripted into the garrisons, were to be subject to highly rigorous 
articles of war: any blasphemy, for example, when "either drunk or sober" 
was punished by forcing the soldier to run the terrible gantlet. Public pray- 
ers were to be read in the field or garrison twice a day, and any soldier re- 
fusing or neglecting to attend the prayers or the preaching or to show 
proper diligence in reading homilies and sermons was to be punished at the 
whim of the commander. A great many Virginians, driven forward by 
war hysteria, by ingrained hatred of the Indians, and by the desire to grab 
Indian lands, began to accuse Berkeley of being soft on the Indians. The 
softness was supposed to be motivated by economic interest, as Berkeley's 
monopoly of the fur trade was supposed to give him a vested interest in the 

*Some writers attribute to this incident Bacon's hostility to the Indians. But already the pre- 
vious fall, Bacon had seized some friendly Appomattox Indians, charging them falsely with 
stealing corn even though the corn in question was neither his nor his neighbors'. 


existence of Indians with whom to trade. The common expression of the 
day was that "no bullet would pierce beaver skins/' The charge, if charge it 
be, was probably partially correct, at least insofar as trade between peoples 
generally functions as a solvent of hatreds and of agitations for war. At any 
rate, in deference to these charges, the Assembly took the Indian trade 
from Berkeley and his licensees and transferred the authority for licenses 
to the county justices of the peace. 

The middle-of-the-road policy of defensive war, however, was probably 
the most unpolitic course that Berkeley could have taken. If he had concluded 
peace, he would have ended the Indian raids and thus removed the constant 
sparkplug for war hysteria among the whites. As it was, the expensive pol- 
icy of constructing mighty defensive forts prolonged the war, and hence the 
irritant, and did nothing to end it. The only result, so far as the Virginians 
were concerned, was a highly expensive network of forts and higher taxes 
imposed to pay for them. Furthermore, Berkeley reportedly reacted in his 
usual tyrannical fashion against several petitions for an armed troop 
against the Indians, by outlawing all such petitions under threat of heavy 

With peace still not concluded, the frontier Virginians found themselves 
suffering Indian raids and yet being refused a governmental armed force 
by Berkeley. They finally determined in April to raise their own army and 
fight the Indians themselves. While three leaders of this effort were fron- 
tier planters on the James and Appomattox rivers, they were hardly small 
farmers; on the contrary, they were among the leading large planters in 
Virginia. The chief leader was the eloquent, twenty-eight-year-old Na- 
thaniel Bacon, Jr., descendant of Francis Bacon, a cousin of Lady Berkeley 
and a member of the select Council of Virginia. The other leaders were 
William Byrd, founder of the Byrd planter dynasty, and Captain James 
Crews, another large planter and neighbor of Bacon. The effort quickly 
emerged, however, not as a new armed force, but as a mutiny against the 
Virginia government. When the three founders and their friends went to 
visit a nearby force of militiamen at Jordan's Point in Charles City 
County, the soldiers decided to mutiny and follow "Bacon! Bacon! Bacon!" 
and swore "damnation to their souls to be true to him." The mighty Ba- 
con's Rebellion had begun. 



Bacon's Rebellion 

Why? Why revolution? This question is asked in fascination by contem- 
porary observers and historians of every revolution in history. What were 
the reasons, the "true" motives, behind any given revolution? The tend- 
ency of historians of every revolution, Bacon's Rebellion included, has 
been to present a simplistic and black-and-white version of the drives be- 
hind the revolutionary forces. Thus, the "orthodox" version holds Nathaniel 
Bacon to have been a conscious "torchbearer" of the later American Rev- 
olution, battling for liberty and against English oppression; the version of 
"revisionist" history marks down Bacon as an unprincipled and Indian- 
hating demagogue rebelling against the wise statesman Berkeley. Nei- 
ther version can be accepted as such.* 

The very search by observers and historians for purity and unmixed motives 
in a revolution betrays an unrealistic naivete. Revolutions are mighty up- 
heavals made by a mass of people, people who are willing to rupture the 
settled habits of a lifetime, including especially the habit of obedience to 
an existing government. They are made by people willing to turn from the 
narrow pursuits of their daily lives to battle vigorously and even violently 
together in a more general cause. Because a revolution is a sudden upheaval 
by masses of men, one cannot treat the motives of every participant as 
identical, nor can one treat a revolution as somehow planned and ordered 
in advance. On the contrary, one of the major characteristics of a rev- 

*For the leading expressions of the two points of view, see Thomas Jefferson Wertenbaker, 
Torchbearer of the Revolution (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1940,) for the or- 
thodox interpretation; and Wilcomb Washburn, The Governor and the Rebel (Chapel Hill: 
University of North Carolina Press, 1957), for the revisionist. 


olution is its dynamism, its rapid and accelerating movement in one of 
several competing directions. Indeed, the enormous sense of exhilaration 
(or of fear, depending on one's personal values and one's place in the social 
structure) generated by a revolution is precisely due to its unfreezing of the 
political and social order, its smashing of the old order, of the fixed and rel- 
atively stagnant political structure, its transvaluation of values, its re- 
placement of a reigning fixity with a sense of openness and dynamism. 
Hope, especially among those submerged by the existing system, re- 
places hopelessness and despair. 

The counterpart of this sudden advent of unlimited social horizons is un- 
certainty. For if the massive gates of the political structure are at last tempo- 
rarily opened, what path will the people now take? Indeed, the ever-chang- 
ing and -developing revolution will take paths and entail consequences 
perhaps only dimly, if at all, seen by its original leaders. A revolution, there- 
fore, cannot be gauged simply by the motivations of its initiators. The paths 
taken by the revolution will be determined not merely by these motives, 
but by the resultant of the motives and values of the contending sides — as 
they begin and as they change in the course of the struggle — clashing with 
and interacting upon the given social and political structure. In short, by the 
interaction of the various subjective values and the objective institutional 
conditions of the day. 

For masses of men to turn from their daily lives to hurl themselves against 
existing habits and the extant might of a ruling government requires an 
accumulation of significant grievances and tensions. No revolution begins 
in a day and on arbitrary whim. The grievances of important numbers of 
people against the state pile up, accumulate, form an extremely dry forest 
waiting for a spark to ignite the conflagration. That spark is the "crisis sit- 
uation," which may be intrinsically minor or only distantly related to the 
basic grievances; but it provides the catalyst, the emotional impetus for the 
revolution to begin. 

This analysis of revolution sheds light on two common but misleading 
historical notions about the genesis of revolutions in colonial America. 
Conservative historians have stressed that revolution in America was unique; 
in contrast to radical European revolutions, American rebellion came only 
in reaction to new acts of oppression by the government. American revolu- 
tions were, therefore, uniquely "conservative," reacting against the dis- 
ruption of the status quo by new acts of tyranny by the state. But this thesis 
misconceives the very nature of revolution. Revolutions, as we have in- 
dicated, do not spring up suddenly and in vacuo; almost all revolutions — 
European or American — are ignited by new acts of oppression by the govern- 
ment. Revolutions in America — and certainly this was true of Bacon's Re- 
bellion — were not more "conservative" than any other, and since revolution 
is the polar archetype of an anticonservative act, this means not conserva- 
tive at all. 


Neither, incidentally, can we credit the myth engendered by neo-Marxian 
historians that revolutions like Bacon's Rebellion were "class struggles" 
of the poor against the rich, of the small farmers against the wealthy oli- 
garchs. The revolution was directed against a ruling oligarchy, to be sure; but 
an oligarchy not of the wealthy but of certain wealthy, who had gained con- 
trol of the privileges to be obtained from government. As we have pointed 
out, the Bacons and Byrds were large planters and the revolution was a re- 
bellion of virtually all the people — wealthy and poor, of all occupations — who 
were not part of the privileged clique. This was a rebellion not against a 
Marxian "ruling class" but against what might be called a "ruling caste."* 

No common purity of doctrine or motive can be found among the Bacon 
rebels, or, for that matter, in the succeeding rebellions of the late seventeenth 
century in the other American colonies. But the bulk of their grievances 
were certainly libertarian: a protest of the rights and liberties of the people 
against the tyranny of the English government and of its Virginia agency. 
We have seen the accumulation of grievances: against English mercantilist 
restrictions on Virginian trade and property rights, increasing taxation, 
monopolizing of trade by political privilege, repeated attempts to impose 
feudal landholdings, tightening rule by the governor and his allied oligarchs, 
infringements of home rule and local liberties, and, to a far lesser extent, 
persecution of religious minorities. On the other hand, there is no denying 
that some of the grievances and motives of the rebels were the reverse of 
libertarian: hatred of the Indians and a desire for land grabbing, or, as in the 
allied and later rebellions in neighboring Maryland, hatred of Roman Cathol- 
icism.** But even though the spark of Bacon's Rebellion came from an 
anti-libertarian motif — pursuit of more rigorous war against the Indians, 
and Bacon's motives were originally limited to this — it is also true that 
as the rebellion developed and the dynamics of a revolutionary situation 
progressed, the other basic grievances came to the fore and found expres- 
sion, even in the case of Bacon himself. 

It should also be recognized that any revolt against a tyrannical state, 
other things being equal, is ipso facto a libertarian move. This is all the 
more true because even a revolution that fails, as did Bacon's, gives the 
people a training ground and a tradition of revolution that may later develop 
into a revolution more extensively and clearly founded on libertarian mo- 
tives. If cherished in later tradition, a revolution will decrease the awe in 
which the constituted authority is held by the populace, and in that way will 
increase the chance of a later revolt against tyranny. 

Overall, therefore, Bacon's Rebellion may be judged as a step forward to 
liberty, and even a microcosm of the American Revolution, but despite, 
rather than because of, the motives of Bacon himself and of the original 

*See below for further discussion of class and caste. 

••Another motive in later rebellion was a desire for a compulsory cartel, in unsound and 
desperate attempts to force a rise in tobacco prices. 


leaders. Nathaniel Bacon was scarcely a heroic and conscious torchbearer 
of liberty; and yet the dynamics of the revolutionary movement that he 
brought into being forged such a torch out of his rebellion. 

After the start of the mutiny at Jordan's Point, Berkeley, having tried 
to stop the movement, denounced Bacon and his followers as rebels and 
mutineers and proceeded west against them. He missed Bacon, however, 
who had gone north to New Kent County to gather men who were also 
"ripe for rebellion." Meanwhile, masses of Virginians began to join Bacon — 
on the most hysterical and bigoted grounds. Berkeley's unfortunate act of 
war of March 1676 had declared war not only against enemy Indians, but 
just as roundly against neutrals. The peaceful and neutral Pamunkey Indi- 
ans, fearful and unhappy at this prospect and terrorized by the Baconians, fled 
to the wilderness of Dragon Swamp on the Gloucester peninsula. To many 
Virginians, it was incomprehensible that Berkeley should proclaim men as 
traitors whose only crime seemed to be hard-line pursuit of victory against 
all Indians; at the same time, Berkeley was clearly soft on the Pamunkeys. 
The protests poured in: how can anyone tell "friendly" Indians from enemy 
Indians? "Are not the Indians all of a color?" Thus, racism and war hysteria 
formed a potent combination to sweep away reason, as a time-honored 
phrase of the racists, "You can't tell one from another," became logically 
transmuted into: "The only good Indian is a dead Indian." Or, as the Baconian 
rebels put it: "Away with these distinctions ... we will have war with all 
Indians which come not in with their arms, and give hostages for their 
fidelity and to aid against all others; we will spare none. If we must be 
hanged for rebels for killing those that will destroy us, let them hang us " 

Alarmed, Berkeley rushed back to the capital and to appease the people 
called an election — at long last — for the House of Burgesses. The election 
was called in mid-May for a session to begin in early June. This was the first 
election since the beginning of Berkeley's second reign. This in itself was a 
victory against tyranny. Meanwhile, Bacon and his band of Indian fighters 
proceeded against the Susquehannocks, but soon veered their attention, 
as usual, to the friendly but far less powerful Occaneechees, whom Bacon 
had even persuaded to attack the Susquehannocks. The Occaneechees had 
given Bacon's exhausted and depleted band food and shelter, and had attacked 
the Susquehannocks themselves in Bacon's behalf. The Occaneechees pre- 
sented their prisoners to Bacon and the prisoners were duly tortured and 

A dispute, however, arose over the plunder from the raid and especially 
over a half-dozen friendly Manikin and Annaleckton Indians who had been 
prisoners of the Susquehannocks and had helped the Occaneechees destroy 
the Susquehannock camp. The Occaneechees naturally wanted to keep the 
plunder from the Susquehannock raid, and to free the friendly Indians they had 
liberated. But Bacon demanded the plunder for himself and insisted that 
the Manikins and Annalecktons be turned over to him as slaves. Bacon fell 
into a dispute with the Occaneechee chief, who balked at selling food to his 


men, whereupon Bacon launched a surprise attack on the Indians, burning 
and slaughtering over a hundred Indian men, women, and children, and kid- 
napping others. To Bacon went the plunder and, in addition, an Occaneechee 
stock of valuable beaver fur. Some contemporary accounts assert the fur was 
Bacon's major aim in the surprise attack. In any case, Bacon returned from 
this irrelevant act of butchery as the leader of a band of heroes in the eyes 
of the bulk of the Virginia people, and insisted more than ever that all Indians 
were enemies: "this I have always said and do maintain." Undaunted by 
Berkeley's denunciation of Bacon for treason and rebellion and his expulsion 
of Bacon from the Council, the freemen of Henrico County unanimously 
elected Bacon and his associate James Crews as burgesses. Joining the inner 
councils of Bacon's Rebellion were two wealthy and influential Virginians: 
William Drummond, tobacco planter and former governor of Albemarle 
colony, and the intellectual Richard Lawrence, who had lost land through 
legal plunder to a favorite of Berkeley's. 

Ignoring the election results, Berkeley sent an armed force to capture 
Bacon and bring him back to Jamestown. Here ensued a patently spurious 
reconciliation scene, with Bacon in open assembly confessing his guilt 
and Berkeley, out of character, granting him forgiveness. Clearly an uneasy 
truce had resulted from the glowering confrontation of armed force and the 
threat of full-fledged civil war. For Berkeley knew that two thousand men 
were armed and ready to come to Bacon's rescue. Berkeley also restored 
Bacon to his seat in the Council, perhaps to retire him to what at this point 
was a less important seat. 

With Bacon quieted, the House of Burgesses, largely supporters of Bacon 
and certainly anti-Berkeley, did very little. A few feeble essays in reform 
were quickly stifled by the domineering governor. Except for acts restrict- 
ing trade with the Indians, and imposing dictates on avowedly friendly 
Indians by forbidding them to hunt with guns even on their own reserva- 
tions, the Assembly did little and certainly nothing against Berkeley. Indeed, 
they saw fit to eulogize Berkeley's rule. Bacon, warned of a plot on his life 
and seeing how reconciliation had only succeeded in dangerously weaken- 
ing the revolutionary movement, calming the people, and taming the As- 
sembly, escaped from Jamestown, He still lacked official sanction to fight 

Returning home, Bacon raised an armed troop and on June 23 invaded 
Jamestown, where, under bayonet, he forced Berkeley and the Assembly to 
grant him the commission to fight the Indians — the original point of the re- 
bellion. But now the Baconian Assembly, emboldened by the Bacon victory, 
pushed through in a few days a series of reform measures that became 
known as "Bacon's Laws." 

Several of these measures were invasive of liberty: the inevitable laws 
for more stringent war and regulation against the Indians, prohibition on 
the export of corn, restrictions on the sale of liquor. But the bulk of the laws 
were in a libertarian direction: requiring annual rotation of the powerful 


office of sheriff; prohibiting anyone from holding two local offices at the same 
time; penalizing excessive charges levied by public officials; providing for 
triennial elections for the local vestry boards by the freemen of the parish 
(thus ending the closed oligarchical control of the vestries). Moreover the 
Assembly ended the absolute control of the appointed justices of the peace, 
meeting in secret conclave, over county taxes and expenditures. Annual 
election by all the freemen was provided, for choosing an equal number of 
representatives to sit with the judges imposing the county levies and ex- 
penditures. Furthermore, the law of 1670 taking the voting for burgesses 
away from nonlandholding freemen was repealed. Thus, a true revolution 
had developed from a mere movement to crush Indians more efficiently. 
Indeed, some leading conservatives hinted darkly of anarchy and menace 
to private property; one leading Berkeleyan sneered that Bacon's followers 
were too poor to pay taxes and therefore wanted none levied at all. In the 
meanwhile, Bacon protested that revolution was farthest from his mind, 
as perhaps it was; that all he wanted was to fight the Indians. Armed with his 
coveted commission he proceeded west to do so. 

Governor Berkeley, however, was not content with this relatively 
peaceful resolution of the problem, and he determined on civil war. Berkeley 
once more cried treason and rebellion against Bacon and proceeded into 
Gloucester County to raise a counterrevolutionary armed force. Hearing of 
this treachery, Bacon and his men marched eastward, where the militia 
of Gloucester County mutinied and to the governor's face chanted, "Bacon! 
Bacon! Bacon!" Berkeley, in disgrace and opposed by the bulk of the people, 
fled to obscure Accomack County on the Eastern Shore, where he lamented: 
"How miserable that man is that governs a people. ..." 

Bacon was now impelled by the logic of events to a radical and revolution- 
ary position. For, despite his wishes, he was now irrevocably a rebel against 
Governor Berkeley; and since Berkeley was the agent of the king, a rebel 
against the king of England as well The logic of events now compelled 
Bacon to favor total independence from England; for him it was now inde- 
pendence or death. So swiftly had the dynamic of revolution pushed events 
forward that the man who, just three months before, had had no thoughts 
of rebellion, who only a few weeks before had only wished to crush Indians 
more effectively, was now forced to fight for the independence of Virginia 
from the Crown. 

Grievances were abounding in neighboring Maryland and Albemarle. 
Bacon began to envisage a mighty all-Chesapeake uprising — Maryland, 
Virginia, North Carolina — to gain freedom from subjection to England. The 
neighboring colonies were indeed ripe for rebellion, and William Drum- 
mond, a leading Baconian and former governor of North Carolina, helped stir 
up a rebel movement there led by John Culpeper, who visited Jamestown 
during the turbulent rebellion of 1676. But Bacon had a critical problem: 
if the choice was only independence or death for him, that choice did not 
face the rest of the Virginians. Thus, one of Bacon's followers, on hearing him 


talk of plans to fight English troops, exclaimed: "Sir, you speak as though 
you designed a total defection from His Majesty and our country!" "Why, 
have not many princes lost their dominions so?" Bacon calmly replied. Less 
chary of a radical policy was Sarah, wife of William Drummond, who, 
breaking a stick in two, exclaimed, "I care no more for the power of England 
than for this broken straw." 

Bacon now faced a twofold chore: the cementing of the Virginia people 
behind the new, difficult, and radical task; and the smashing of the Berkeley 
forces before they could rally. Unfortunately, it is not surprising that a man 
dedicated to a hard-line against the Indians would not hesitate in a hard- 
line against his own people. Bacon began to wield the weapon of the com- 
pulsory public loyalty oath. From his headquarters at the Middle Plantation 
(later Williamsburg), Bacon issued a call for a convention of the leading men 
of the colony. Once at the convention, Bacon issued a manifesto, grandiosely 
entitled the "Declaration of the People," demanding surrender of Berkeley 
and nineteen of his closest cohorts in four days. Refusal to surrender would 
mean arrest for treason and confiscation of property. In the Declaration, 
several accusations were leveled against Berkeley: (I) that "upon spacious 
pretense of public works [he] raised great unjust taxes upon the common- 
ality;" (2) advancing favorites to high public offices; (3) monopolizing the 
beaver trade with the Indians; (4) being pro-Indian. 

Bacon now assumed dictatorial authority over the colony. He forced the 
convention to subscribe to an oath of allegiance. The first clause caused no 
trouble — a pledge not to join Berkeley's forces. The second part caused a great 
deal of trouble — a pledge to oppose any English forces sent to aid Berkeley. 
The Virginians balked at open revolution against the Crown. Bacon, how- 
ever, locked the doors and forced the assembled men to take the entire oath. 
Bacon now proceeded to terrorize the mass of Virginians to take the same 
oath, and arrested any who refused. Terror is a poor way to persuade someone 
to be loyal, and from this moment Bacon's formerly great popularity in the 
colony began to ebb. 

At this juncture, when smashing Berkeley's forces was the order of the day, 
Bacon permitted himself to be diverted to the old sport of killing Indians. 
Instead of pursuing the Indian war against the tribes actually fighting, Bacon 
again found it convenient to attack the hapless and neutral Pamun- 
key Indians, who had fled to the swamps and wilderness of Gloucester 
County to be left alone. After wasting many days trying to find the 
Pamunkeys in the swamps and, of course, plundering as they went, Bacon's 
forces found the Pamunkeys' camp and plundered, captured, and slaughtered 
the unresisting Indians. Bacon was a hero once more. 

While Bacon was off to raid the Pamunkeys, Berkeley had seized the oppor- 
tunity to win control of the fleet, Jamestown, and the principal river areas. 
In contrast to Bacon's reliance upon volunteers for his army, Berkeley raised 
his counterrevolutionary force by the promise of plunder from the estates 
of those who had taken Bacon's oath, and the promise of subsidy and exemp- 


tion from virtually all taxes. Each party was soon promising liberty to the 
servants of the opposing side. 

Marching on Jamestown again, Bacon now drove Berkeley out of the cap- 
ital. In the course of the battle, Bacon used a new stratagem: he kid- 
napped some of the wives of the Berkeley leaders and threatened to place 
them in the front line if the Berkeley forces fired upon their fortifications. 

Power corrupts, and the repeated use of aggressive violence spirals in- 
evitably upward and outward. So with Nathaniel Bacon, Jr. Beginning with 
the Indians, Bacon increasingly extended despotism and violence against 
Virginian citizens. After capturing Jamestown, Bacon burned it totally to 
the ground, on the flimsy excuse of hypothetical military necessity. The 
forces of Giles Brent, now a Colonel, in the northern counties, which had 
shifted from Bacon's to Berkeley's cause, were marching south, but Brent's 
men deserted him completely when they heard of Bacon's victory at James- 
town. After driving Berkeley's forces back to the Eastern Shore, Bacon en- 
forced his loyalty oath on more masses of people, seized provisions for his 
army from the populace, and punished several citizens by martial law. Even 
his cousin, Nathaniel Bacon, Sr., was not spared the plunder meted out to the 
leading opponents of the rebellion, even though the elder Bacon had pre- 
viously warned his cousin of an attempt on his life. The elder Bacon's property 
was looted to the loss of £1,000. 

Just as Bacon made ready to proceed against Berkeley and the Eastern 
Shore, this leader of revolution fell ill and died on October 26, 1676. In a few 
short months he had brought Virginia and perhaps the neighboring colonies 
to the brink of revolutionary independence from Great Britain. Who knows 
what might have happened had Bacon lived? Without the inspiration 
provided by their leader, the rebellion fell apart and Berkeley's forces con- 
quered the disorganized rebel units. One of the last of the rebel bands to yield 
was a group of 400 Negro slaves and white servants, fighting for their freedom 
in Bacon's army. Captain Thomas Grantham of the Berkeley forces persuaded 
them to disarm by promising them their freedom, after which he delivered 
them back to their masters. 

Governor Berkeley was not a forgiving soul, and he now instituted a veri- 
table reign of terror in Virginia. As he defeated each of the rebel units, he 
courtmartialed and hanged the leaders. Neither was Berkeley very discrim- 
inating in his court-martialing and hanging parties; in one of them he in- 
cluded Thomas Hall, clerk of New Kent County, who had never taken up 
arms in the rebellion but who had angered Berkeley in other matters. It 
was enough, however, that Hall, "by divers writings under his own hand. . . 
a most notorious actor, aided and assisted in the rebellion. . . ." One of the 
hanged rebels protested, no doubt truthfully, that he had always been a loyal 
subject of the Crown and only meant to take up arms against Indians. As in 
the case of many rebels, he was hanged in a cause the rapid progress of 
which had traveled far beyond his understanding. When the eminent Wil- 
liam Drummond, who had incurred the dislike of Berkeley even before the 


year's events, was captured in the swamps and dragged in before the gov- 
ernor, Berkeley gloated: "Mister Drummond! You are very welcome. I am 
more glad to see you than any man in Virginia; Mister Drummond you shall 
be hanged in half an hour." To which Drummond steadfastly replied: "I ex- 
pect no mercy from you. I have followed the lead of my conscience, and done 
what I might to free my country from oppression." Allowing for a few hours 
missed, the promise was indeed carried out, and Drummond's ring confis- 
cated by Berkeley for good measure. 

Most defiant of the captured rebels was Anthony Arnold, who delivered 
a trenchant attack on the rights of kings: "They have no rights but what they 
got by conquest and the sword, and he that can by force of the sword deprive 
them of it has as good and just a title to it as the king himself. If the king 
should deny to do me right I would make no more to sheath my sword in 
his heart or bowels than of my mortal enemies." The court hung "the horri- 
ble resolved rebel and traitor" Arnold in chains, openly regretting that it 
could not draw and quarter him as well. Berkeley also proceeded to confis- 
cate the estates of one rebel after another, thus recouping his own personal 

Unfortunately for Berkeley's uninterrupted pleasure, the king's commis- 
sioners arrived in January with a general pardon for all rebels. What is 
more, the commissioners promised that they would redress the grievances 
of the people. The king further ordered Berkeley back to England. But Berk- 
eley, defying the commissioners, continued imposing his own loyalty oaths, 
seizing more property for his own use, and delaying publication of the king's 
pardon. He finally published the pardon, but exempted eighteen nameless 
people — an excellent way of cowing the Virginians so as to keep them from 
bearing their grievances to the commissioners. Civil trials for treason pro- 
ceeded apace, and several more were hanged. 

Furthermore, the subservient Assembly now met and quickly repealed 
all of the bold acts of liberal reform of Bacon's Assembly of June 1676. Under 
Berkeley's direction, the Assembly proceeded to hang many more rebels 
by acts of attainder, and to fine, imprison, banish, and expropriate still 
more. Some rebels were ordered to pay heavy fines and appear before the 
Assembly with halters around their necks, kneeling to repent of their guilt 
and beg for their lives. If freed by the Assembly, they were forced to repeat 
the same ordeal before the county court. All leading supporters of the rebel- 
lion were barred thereafter from holding public office. Even the hapless in- 
dentured servants who followed Bacon were sentenced to imprisonment 
whenever their terms of service should expire. Anyone who had written or 
spoken anything favoring the rebellion, or even criticizing anyone in author- 
ity, received heavy fines, the pillory, flogging, or branding on the forehead. 
Yet the jails were not filled, being kept clear by banishments and execu- 

Some hapless Virginians were caught in the middle in the civil war. Thus 
Otto Thorpe. Wishing not to sign Bacon's compulsory loyalty oath, Thorpe 


finally did so when his wife was threatened. Later in the rebellion, Thorpe 
refused to aid Bacon further and had his property confiscated by the rebels 
as a consequence. Then, when Berkeley returned to power, he sent Thorpe 
to jail for swearing to the Baconian oath and confiscated his property once 

The commissioners sadly concluded that no peace could come to the col- 
ony, either internally or with the Indians, until Berkeley had been com- 
pletely removed from his post and the general pardon carried out. The only 
real supporters of Berkeley in his fanatic campaign of vengeance were 
twenty friends of his among the oligarchy, known as the Green Spring fac- 
tion. The commissioners reported that the Green Spring group was contin- 
ually pleading for the punishment of the guilty, who were "little less than 
the whole country." The commissioners, indeed, estimated that of all the 
people in Virginia (who now numbered about 40,000) only 500 had never 
supported the rebellion. Finally, the Assembly, under pressure of the com- 
missioners, forced the reluctant Berkeley to stop the hangings. As one as- 
semblyman stated, if not for this interference, "the governor would have 
hanged half the country." Under pressure of the commissioners, the Assem- 
bly of February 1677 also reenacted a few of the most innocuous of the re- 
form laws of the previous year. 

Despite the intimidation and terror, a large number of grievances were 
sent to the Assembly and the commissioners by the people of Virginia. The 
most common grievance concerned the levying of heavy and unjust taxes 
by officials, taxes that were used for expenditures over which the people 
had no control. Typical was a petition from Surry County, which prayed the 
authorities "to ease us His Majesty's poor subjects of our great burdens and 
taxes." The petition asked: 

Whereas there yearly came a great public levy from James City we never 
knew for what to the great grief and dissatisfaction of the poor upon whose 
shoulders the levy chiefly lay, we most humbly pray that for the future the col- 
lectors of the levy (who instead of satisfaction were wont to give churlish an- 
swers) may be obliged to give an account in writing what the levy is for to any 
who shall desire it. 

The Surry county petition also humbly asked for a free election for every As- 
sembly so that they could find redress for their grievances. 

Not surprisingly, this humble petition received its typical answer: severe 
punishment for the petitioners by the Assembly, for the high crime of 
"speaking or writing disrespectfully of those in authority." Other griev- 
ances mentioned in petitions were favoritism, illegal fees charged by 
local officials, restriction of the right to vote, monopoly of the Indian trade, 
and the arbitrary seizing of property by the government. 

While the commissioners were hardly zealous in defending the people 
against Berkeley's oppression, they at least arranged a peace with the In- 
dians, and the great Indian war was happily ended Finally, the commis- 


sioners decided to carry the king's order into effect, and they ousted Berke- 
ley. Leaving for England, Berkeley made his exit in characteristic fashion, 
kicking and snarling all the way, and bitterly denouncing the ambition, 
incompetence, and ignorance of the appointed lieutenant governor left in 
charge. At long last, on May 5, 1677, Berkeley embarked for England, dying 
soon after his arrival. Perhaps Berkeley's most appropriate epitaph was the 
reported comment on the Virginia affair by King Charles II: "That old fool 
has hanged more men in that naked country than I did here for the murder 
of my father." 

The shadow of Berkeley still fell over the unhappy colony, however, as Vir- 
ginia, not knowing of his death, still believed that Berkeley would soon en- 
gineer his return. The colony was still in the hands of Berkeley's henchmen, 
the Green Spring oligarchs who had been reestablished in their lucrative and 
powerful offices. Leading members of this faction were Colonel Philip Lud- 
well, Colonel Thomas Ballard, Colonel Edward Hill, and Major Robert Bev- 
erley. It also included Colonel John Washington and Richard Lee. Green 
Spring's control was especially strong after the commissioners had returned 
to England in July. The Green Spring faction ran the council, and engi- 
neered corrupt elections to the House of Burgesses. They continued to drag 
rebels into court to seize their property and they levied another large poll tax 
on the colony, again laying the heaviest burden on the poorest citizens. Peti- 
tions from the counties to redress grievances continued to be punished in 
the by now traditional manner: severe punishment for statements highly 
scandalous and injurious to authority. 

Finally, in October, news of Berkeley's death arrived in Virginia, and the 
king was finally able to get his complete and general pardon published. The 
Baconian remnants, still hiding in the woods, were able to emerge and re- 
sume their normal lives. But if Berkeley was at last truly dead, his system 
was not; Berkeleyism and the Green Spring faction continued to rule the 
colony. In fact, the next governor, Thomas Lord Culpeper, was a relative of 
Lady Berkeley. The revolution had failed, but it continued to live on in the 
hearts of Americans who cherished the memory of its near victory — a bea- 
con light for future rebellions against tyranny. 




Virginia, as we have seen, was England's first chartered colony and the 
first royal colony in America. The remaining type of English colony was the 
proprietary, and the first proprietary colony was founded in the early seven- 
teenth century, just north of the Virginia border. 

A proprietary grant was a far more feudalistic device than the chartered 
company. For a company, being a joint venture of capitalists, was bent on 
parceling out land to its shareholders, on earning rapid profits rather than 
acting as a long-time or permanent feudal landlord. But the gift of a huge 
tract of land to a single proprietor was a more enticing invitation to feu- 
dalism to come to American shores. 

The first American proprietary was a grant of land in 1632 by King Charles 
I to Cecilius Calvert, the second Lord Baltimore. The grant was carved out of 
Virginia territory and extended from the Potomac River north to the forti- 
eth parallel, including (but rather larger than) the present boundaries of 
Maryland. The king reserved for himself but one-fifth of the gold and silver 
that might be mined each year in the province. Otherwise, Lord Baltimore 
was as free to govern in his vast domain as the king was in England. The 
king even expressly granted the power to levy any taxes on Maryland, so 
named in honor of the English queen Henrietta Maria. The charter granted 
to Lord Baltimore ownership of all the land, minerals, rivers, and fisheries 
in the area as well as the right to confer titles, incorporate cities and towns, 
levy taxes, erect churches and feudal manors, and constitute courts. This was 
a veritable feudal government — a "Palatinate" as existed in Europe, spe- 
cifically like the Palatinate of Durham in England. One important limitation 
on Calvert's absolute rule, as in the case of the king himself, was that he 


could levy taxes only with the consent of an Assembly representing the free- 
men, or landholders, of the province. 

The first settlement in Maryland was made in 1634 by two small ships, 
the Ark and the Dove, carrying about 220 people and landing at St. Marys, 
near the mouth of the Potomac. From the first, Roman Catholicism was 
a uniquely important issue in this colony. For Calvert's father, George, the 
first Lord Baltimore and a leader of the monarchial party in England, had 
turned Catholic after receiving a promise of the grant. From the first, 
Cecilius wanted to make Maryland a haven from persecution for Catho- 
lics in England. But, eager to encourage settlement (for without settlers 
there would be no profit from his feudal domain), Calvert made no reli- 
gious test for settling in the colony. As a result, Protestants outnumbered 
Catholics among the settlers by nearly ten to one from the beginning — 
with the Protestant faith predominating among the poorer classes and 
Catholicism among the gentlemen. Both Protestants and Catholics enjoyed 
full religious liberty and there was no established church in the colony. 

Early relations with the Indians were peaceful, with the land acquired 
from them by voluntary purchase rather than by force. This peaceful coexis- 
tence was assured by Calvert's simple expedient of instructing his men to 
deal fairly with the Indians. Indeed, the largest wigwam in St. Marys 
was after purchase consecrated as a church by the two Jesuit priests of the 
first expedition.* 

The land system, however, in keeping with the vast feudal powers given 
to Calvert, was established on the most rigidly feudal lines in America. 
Calvert early advertised that every settler who would finance the transport 
of five other settlers to the colony would receive a grant as "Lord of the 
Manor" of 2,000 acres of land — not outright, however, or in fee simple, but 
as a feudal tenancy with a quitrent of 400 pounds of good wheat per year to 
the proprietor. The manor lords, most of them Catholic, in turn rented their 
land to smaller planters in exchange for rent in produce. This restrictive 
method of allocating land or landownership decidedly hampered the 
growth of the entire colony during the seventeenth century. Furthermore, 
Calvert gave vast estates as manors to his friends and relatives. 

The first governor of the colony was Calvert's brother, Leonard, and Cal- 
vert appointed a Council to advise his brother. While the Calverts tried to 
keep representative government to a minimum, an Assembly soon de- 
veloped, after persistent pressure from below on the proprietors. The pro- 
prietor and the Assembly soon quarreled over the extent of their relative 
powers, the proprietor claiming the sole right to initiate legislation, which 
the Assembly could then reject. The Assembly, with the power to hold up 
the enactment of laws, refused to consent to any imposition of a code by 
Calvert and thus won the fight to initiate legislation. 

*In a few years, however, Calvert became dissatisfied with the Jesuit missionaries in Mary- 
land and "their very extravagant" demands for privileges, and took measures to prevent any 
increased supply of Jesuits to the colony. 


At first, all the landowners sat in the Assembly, but soon the representa- 
tive principle was adopted. In 1650, the Assembly turned into the familiar 
two-house type: the Council sitting as the upper house and the elected 
members as the lower. The governor and the proprietor, who appointed the 
governor, had veto power over all legislation and the governor could also 
dissolve the Assembly at will. However, the Assembly assured its continu- 
ing existence by refusing to grant taxes for more than a year at a time. The 
supreme judicial power, as in Virginia, was vested in the governor and the 
Council, although eventually this provincial court set up subsidiary county 
courts for minor cases and judges, appointed and removable by the governor, 
were appointed as higher courts. 

We have already alluded to the conflict between Lord Baltimore and Wil- 
liam Claiborne, a Virginian who had established a trading post on Kent 
Island in Chesapeake Bay. This quarrel was embittered by Claiborne's 
virulent anti-Catholicism, which had spurred him to play a leading role in 
ousting Calvert from Virginia, before the founding of the Maryland colony. 
With Claiborne refusing to recognize Calvert's overlordship of Kent Island, 
Calvert moved to assert his dominion over Claiborne, wielding his land 
grant as his claim. The conflict was punctuated by a naval battle between 
the ships of Lord Baltimore and of Claiborne. Finally, the king decided the 
issue by ruling in Lord Baltimore's favor. 

In the mid- 1640s, as the Puritan Revolution arose in England, Lord Bal- 
timore sided with the king, and Leonard Calvert received privileges (or 
"letters of marque") from the king to capture vessels belonging to Parlia- 
ment. On the other hand, the Protestant tobacco trader, Capt. Richard Ingle, 
a friend of Claiborne's, received a similar commission from Parliament. 
The governor ordered Ingle's arrest for high treason in denouncing the king, 
whereupon Ingle escaped and in 1645 mounted a successful attack on Mary- 
land. Captain Ingle took the opportunity, "for conscience'" sake, to plunder 
and pillage "papists and malignants," seizing property and jailing his en- 
emies. The venerable Father Andrew White, a Jesuit missionary who had 
arrived on the first ships to land in Maryland, was sent to England in irons 
to be tried for treason. Happily, the old missionary was acquitted. 

In the meanwhile, Claiborne took the opportunity to retrieve Kent Island 
from Maryland's seizure. Under Ingle's attack, Leonard Calvert escaped to 
Virginia, from where Berkeley helped him to recapture Maryland and Kent 

Returning to England, Ingle almost succeeded in revoking Maryland's 
charter, but Calvert retained it by taking pains to placate Parliament. Cal- 
vert, for example, encouraged a group of Dissenters exiled from Virginia to 
settle in Maryland, a little further up the Chesapeake Bay from St. Marys, 
in what is now Annapolis. Furthermore, after Leonard Calvert died in 1648, 
Lord Baltimore appointed the Protestant William Stone as governor. He 
required the governor to take an oath not to violate the free exercise of re- 
ligion by any Christians, specifically including Roman Catholics. Subse- 


quently, in April 1649, the Maryland Assembly passed the famous Tolera- 
tion Act, which guaranteed all Christians the free exercise of their religion. 
However, tolerance and religious liberty went only so far and the death 
penalty was levied against all non-Christians, including Jews and Unitar- 
ians. Neither did toleration extend to freedom of speech, for any use of such 
religious epithets as "heretic" and "popish priest" was outlawed. Also pro- 
hibited on the Sabbath were swearing, drinking, unnecessary work, and 
disorderly recreation. Actually, the much vaunted Toleration Act was a 
retreat from the religious liberty that had previously prevailed in Catholic- 
ruled Maryland, and was a compromise with the growing spirit of Puritan 

Charles II, still in exile, embittered by what he regarded as acts of treach- 
ery by Lord Baltimore, deposed him and appointed instead Sir William 
Davenant as royal governor, for Baltimore "did visibly adhere to the rebels 
in England, and admit all kinds of sectaries and schismatics and ill-affected 
persons into the plantation." Davenant sailed from France to try to seize 
Maryland but was himself captured by the English. 

Walking the tightrope of religious liberty between the demands of Par- 
liament and those of the Crown was a difficult feat, and in 1651 the rulers 
of Maryland fell off. The Catholic royalist deputy governor, Thomas Greene, 
foolishly decided to recognize Charles II in the same year as the legitimate 
ruler of England. This proclamation naturally angered Parliament and pre- 
cipated severe reaction. The following year Parliament sent to the Ches- 
apeake colonies commissioners, of whom the angry Claiborne was one, 
to subdue the recalcitrants. After settling matters in Virginia, the commis- 
sioners proceeded to Maryland, where they removed the governor and 
ousted the proprietary. Governor Stone was reinstated, but he, in turn, 
persisted in trying to reinstate the authority of the proprietor. He com- 
pounded his difficulties by insisting on imposing an oath of allegiance on 
Lord Baltimore. The oath offended Puritans. Stone then denounced the 
Puritans and the commissioners as fomenters of sedition. The result was 
the capture of St, Marys by the commissioners in 1654, and their appoint- 
ment of a Puritan Council and of Capt. William Fuller as governor. Catho- 
lics were now excluded from voting and from the Assembly, and the Tolera- 
tion Act as well as the rule of the proprietor were canceled. A law of 1654 
declared that "none who professed and exercised the popish religion could 
be protected in this province." The law disfranchised not only Catholics, but 
also Anglicans. The Puritans made it clear that freedom of worship would 
now be extended only to Protestants free of either "popery or prelacy." 

Former governor Stone now raised his insurrectionary army loyal to the 
proprietary, and in 1655 attacked Providence, the principal Puritan settle- 
ment in Maryland. The erstwhile governor was crushed by a force of Puri- 
tan planters, Stone was imprisoned, and several of his followers executed, 
even though they had been promised their lives before surrender. Calvert, 
however, proved extremely agile and managed to convice Cromwell and 


Parliament that religious toleration and hence his own rule should be re- 
established. Calvert was permitted to appoint a new governor in 1656 and 
this governor, Josiah Fendall, joined with the Puritans in agreeing to es- 
tablish religious toleration, including toleration for Catholics. 

With the death of Cromwell, Fendall tried to seize the opportunity to 
liberalize the colony further by casting off proprietary rule and submitting 
himself to appointment by the Maryland Assembly. The restoration of 
Charles II, however, ended such hopes for the remainder of the century, and 
Baltimore moved swiftly to crush this move for independence, appointing 
Philip Calvert as governor. 

After the Restoration, tensions and grievances accumulated in Maryland 
somewhat as they did in Virginia. Falling tobacco prices, the crippling ef- 
fect of the English Navigation Acts, the raising of the quitrents — each con- 
duced to this effect. In Maryland, too, suffrage was restricted to freehold- 
ers in 1670; furthermore, proprietary rule aggravated the problem of 
quasi-feudal landholdings. Moreover, anti-Catholic sentiment grew among 
the Protestant masses and focused both against the proprietor and against 
religious toleration. Another important grievance: the Calverts had tam- 
pered with the election to the burgesses in 1670 and after that, in imitation 
of Berkeley, suspended elections until 1676. The ambivalence of religious 
toleration in Maryland may be seen in its treatment of the Quakers. Quak- 
ers were people who had no priests, declined to swear oaths, and refused 
determinedly to fight or bear arms. They were, accordingly, highly unpop- 
ular wherever adoration of the state ran high. They proclaimed, indeed, that 
they were "governed by God's laws and the light within and not by man's 
laws." In Maryland the Quakers were steadily persecuted; forty were pub- 
licly whipped within one year. Finally the Quakers were branded as "rebels 
and traitors," and in a law of 1659 Maryland ordered their expulsion from 
the colony. The law decreed that "any of the vagabonds or idle persons 
known by the name of Quakers, who should again enter the province, should 
be whipped from constable to constable out of it." The proprietary, how- 
ever, soon ceased to enforce the law, and before long many Quakers were 
reestablished in the colony. When the founder of the Quakers, George Fox, 
visited Maryland in 1672, he welcomed the full religious liberty in the prov- 
ince and rejoiced in the number of public officials who had been converts. 

Maryland's economy and social structure developed in a way similar to 
neighboring Virginia's. After a brief period of growing subsistence crops of 
maize, pork, and vegetables, the colony turned to specialization in tobacco. 
A large tobacco plantation society and economy, in short, prevailed in the 
whole Chesapeake Bay area, Maryland as well as Virginia. The planta- 
tions were located in the fertile river plains of the coastal tidewater re- 
gion, and trade was oriented to London and Bristol. Again, quasi-feudal 
land allocation led to large plantations, although small up-country farms 
growing subsistence crops and tobacco were more numerous but not domi- 
nant in the colony. Once more, the land was extensively settled and thinly 


populated. The labor base for the plantations was indentured service and 
Negro slavery. 

Perhaps the major economic and social difference between Maryland 
and Virginia was Maryland's far more feudal structure. The land was kept 
in a hierarchy of overlordships and tenancies, with the Calverts owning all 
the land and collecting a quitrent from all the landholders, while the manor 
lords of the vast estates given to them by the overlords leased the land to 
smaller planters. The small yeoman farmers of the back country could not 
therefore gain their land outright, but could only stay as tenants paying 
quitrents to the proprietary overlord. Large stretches of tidewater land 
were held by a few large planters. 

Although beginning as a rigidly feudal structure, even the Maryland land 
system could not survive the liberating conditions of America: in particu- 
lar, the enormous abundance of new land and the need to stimulate settle- 
ment upon it. By the late seventeenth century, the land was being increas- 
ingly transferred to the settlers; through purchases, the feudal land structure 
was dissolved into its component parts, and ownership progressively de- 
volved upon the actual users of the land. Feudal landholdings, in short, began 
to dissolve into the market economy. 

One of the most important single manifestations of feudal landholdings, 
especially in a proprietary colony, was the quitrent, exacted from all land- 
owners as tenants of the proprietary. Originally Cecilius Calvert had fixed 
a quitrent of ten pounds of wheat for each fifty acres, and then of one shil- 
ling per fifty acres, to be paid in kind. In 1648 Calvert attempted a dras- 
tic increase in quitrents, ranging now from one shilling per fifty acres up to 
twenty shillings per fifty acres, or ten pounds per manor of 2,000 acres after 
a term of years. Pressure of the settlers and the need to encourage settle- 
ment forced abandonment of this plan, and the Maryland Assembly 
felt the need in 1654 to pass a law upholding the rights in the land of the set- 
tlers as well as of the proprietary. After the Restoration in England, the 
cocky Lord Baltimore doubled the quitrent to four shillings per 100 acres, 
which began to be enforced in 1669. In addition, in an attempt to block the 
quiet dissolution into the market of feudal tenure, the proprietors imposed 
in 1660 a fine on any alienation of landed property. Happily the fine was 
never thoroughly enforced. The proprietors also imposed on the settlers a 
purchase price (known as "caution money"), which considerably restricted 
the growth of the colony. First levied in 1683 at 200 pounds of tobacco per 
100 acres, the purchase price was increased the next year to 240 pounds, and 
by 1717 had reached the sum of 40 shillings per 100 acres. 

As in Virginia, the chief money was tobacco, and so quitrents were paid 
in that commodity. As the price of tobacco fell drastically, the Assembly be- 
gan to fix the exchange rate in order to try to keep the tobacco prices above 
the market rate. Such minimum price control could only create unsold sur- 
pluses of tobacco and aggravate conditions further for many tobacco planters, 
as well as for tobacco consumers. However, an incidental boon was to 


relieve the burden of quitrents on the inhabitants. Thus, in 1662 and again 
in 1671, the Assembly fixed the tobacco price at twopence per pound while 
the market price was a penny a pound, thus reducing the quitrent burden by 
letting it be paid in arbitrarily overvalued tobacco. The quitrents, further- 
more, were enforced by forfeit of land for nonpayment, and by making 
every debt due to Lord Baltimore a prior lien on the land. Where there 
were no goods to seize, the delinquent tenant was imprisoned. 

The relative growth of Maryland may be gauged by comparing its pop- 
ulation with Virginia's: less than 600 as compared with Virginia's more 
than 10,000 in 1640, Maryland's population rose to 4,500 in 1650, 8,400 in 
1660, and almost 18,000 in 1680, compared with Virginia's 44,000. The Ne- 
gro (almost all-slave) population of Maryland was proportionately greater 
in 1680 (over 1,200 compared with Virginia's 2,000), but then fell behind be- 
cause of an enormous spurt in Virginia's slave population. By 1700 there 
were 3,200 slaves in Maryland, while over 16,000 in Virginia. Slave re- 
volts broke out in Maryland in the early 1680s, in 1688, 1705, 1738, and 

A Negro slave in Maryland had the distinction of staging perhaps the first 
demonstration of nonviolent resistance in America. In 1656 Tony, a slave 
of one Symon Overzee, ran away and was captured with the aid of blood- 
hounds. When he ran away and was captured a second time, Tony sat down 
and refused to rise and work as a slave. Mr. Overzee bound and beat him 
repeatedly, but Tony still refused to act as a slave. Enraged because "his 
property" was refusing to function as property, Overzee poured hot lard 
over Tony and killed him. A court acquitted Overzee of the murder because, 
after all, Tony had proved to be "incorrigible." 



The Carolinas 

In the mid-seventeenth century, many settlers from Virginia, dis- 
gruntled by the domination of society by the planter aristocracy or by the 
Anglican church, moved down to the southern part of the Virginia grant, on 
the north of Albemarle Sound (in what is now North Carolina). The leader 
of the first settlement was the Presbyterian Roger Green. Many of these 
settlers were Quakers. At first part of Virginia, this settlement, which was 
also largely devoted to raising tobacco, was relatively independent. Soon, 
however, it was to feel the heavy hand of a feudal proprietary grant. For 
the large territory south of Virginia and down to the border of Spanish Flor- 
ida was still up for seizure. In 1663 the newly installed Charles II granted a 
feudal proprietary gift of the territory between the thirty-first and thirty- 
sixth parallels — from what is now slightly north of the Florida-Georgia bor- 
der to the northern boundary of North Carolina — to a proprietorship compris- 
ing eight of his favorite courtiers and supporters. This grant whittled away 
the southern portion of the Virginia grant, which had been bounded by the 
thirty-fourth parallel. The eight proprietors were Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper, 
the chancellor of the Exchequer (later first Earl of Shaftesbury) ; the governor 
of Virginia, Sir William Berkeley; his brother John Lord Berkeley, a high- 
ranking naval officer; the Earl of Clarendon, chief minister to the king; Gen. 
George Mack, the new Duke of Albemarle; Sir George Carteret; the 
wealthy Earl of Craven; and Sir John Colleton, a wealthy Barbadian planter 
and slave trader. As in the Virginia grant, the territory grandiosely extend- 
ed west to the "south seas." The idea of the grant originated with those 
proprietors already interested in the Americas: Colleton, William Berke- 
ley, Ashley Cooper (also a Barbadian landholder), and Clarendon, a land- 


owner in Jamaica. John Berkeley acted as agent of the others to per- 
suade the king to make the grant. The grant was known as "Carolina," 
after a previous land grant to the area.* 

Two years later, the eight Carolina proprietors received a new charter 
extending their grant to 36° 30' in the north and down to 29° in the south — 
the latter, however, being academic, as it covered the Spanish settlements 
of Florida. 

A party of settlers under the new grant established a settlement at Char- 
les Town (now Charleston), at the mouth of the Ashley and Cooper rivers, 
in 1670. From the beginning, the proprietors had to govern two distinct 
and separate settlements, unruly Albemarle in the north, and Charles 
Town in the south, far more under its control. Moreover, the two settle- 
ments were, from the beginning, administered by different governors, 
though under the same proprietary. Albemarle was under the general aegis 
of Virginia's Governor Berkeley, one of the proprietors who appointed the 
governor of the district. From 1691 on, Albemarle settlement was known 
as North Carolina, and the Charleston area as South Carolina, separately 
administered though for some years under a single proprietary rule. 

The proprietors were given a grant with feudal powers virtually as 
sweeping as the Maryland gift of privilege — a veritable palatinate. The 
proprietors were empowered to work their will, with the very important 
exception that an Assembly of the freemen of the colony, or their repre- 
sentatives, had to approve of the laws. Thus, as in the other colonies, the pop- 
ularly elected Assembly originated less as a sovereign branch of govern- 
ment than as a check on the despotic rule of the executive. Even before 
Charleston was settled, the proprietors in 1665 drew up for the government 
of the chartered area, the "Concessions and Agreements," a relatively lib- 
eral document granting freedom of conscience, liberal land distribution 
subject to the inevitable but small quitrent, as well as an Assembly elected 
by the freemen of the colony. But in 1669 the proprietors, spurred by the 
ambitious Ashley Cooper, decided to embark on the fantastic project of fas- 
tening a feudal rule on the colony that could not be supplanted or dissolved 
by market processes. For not only were there to be proprietors as feudal 
lords, but there was to be a fully ordered feudal hierarchy of various degrees 
of subinfeudation. This scheme, to be imposed on the entire Carolinas, 
was drawn up for the supposedly "liberal" Shaftesbury by his hired theo- 

*In 1629 King Charles J made his first land grant of the area between the thirty-first and 
thirty-sixth parallels to Sir Robert Heath, and called it New Carolina. Heath transferred his 
grant in 1630 to Samuel Vassal and others, but they failed to settle the virgin territory. In 1632 
Heath conveyed his rights to Henry Lord Maltraven, who also failed to settle the area. The 
Duke of Norfolk, heir of Maltraven, Samuel Vassal, and the Cape Fear Company of London and 
New England merchants (who had settled on the Cape Fear River of North Carolina in 1662 
but quickly abandoned the settlement) all now tried to invalidate the Carolina charter, but 
the Crown voided their patents in 1665- And yet, as late as 1768, the Crown granted the Coxe 
family of New Jersey (to whom had been transferred the Heath title in 1696) 100,000 acres of 
land in New York as a payment for their tenuous and dubious claim. 


retician, John Locke, and promulgated as the Fundamental Constitutions 
of the Carolinas.* 

The Cooper-Locke scheme envisioned a hereditary feudal nobility that 
was to preempt two-fifths of the land of the Carolinas, to be sold to it by the 
proprietary. Each of these nobles was to have his own seignory of 12,000 
acres in each county; underneath the nobles were the landgraves, each of 
whom was to have four baronies totaling 48,000 acres; next to them, the 
caciques, with two baronies totaling 24,000 acres; underneath them, the 
lords of the manor, each with 3,000 to 12,000 acres; and finally, the freehold- 
ers, with a 500-acre minimum requirement for voting. The unfree — slaves 
and indentured servants — of course did not count enough to be worthy of 
mention in the hierarchical structure. The eight proprietors were to con- 
stitute a supreme Palatine Court, with each proprietor also operating a 
court of his own. The Palatine Court was to appoint the governor and exert 
sovereign rule over the colony. The Assembly was to be limited to the gov- 
ernor, the hereditary nobility, and the deputies — the last restricted to hold- 
ers of 500-acre freeholds. All fishing and mineral rights were to be retained 
in the ownership of the proprietors. 

Religious freedom was to be guaranteed — a long-standing conviction of 
Locke's — even for Quakers, Jews, and slaves, but the Church of England was 
to be established by the government, with churches to be built and the min- 
isters paid by the state. But although Locke did not agree with the estab- 
lishment of the Church of England, he was perhaps partially compensated 
for this disappointment by receiving the title of landgrave. It was, however, 
also decreed that no non-theist could hold public office or even have the 
protection of the law. Another libertarian provision was the guarantee of 
trial by jury. 

Fortunately for the Carolinas, the proprietors were never able to persuade 
the Assembly to accept this scheme. As a consequence, the gravest threat 
of permanent feudalism in English America was nipped in the bud. 
Twenty-six landgraves and thirteen caciques were created, but they 
mostly expired with the original holder and did not become hereditary. 
Furthermore, no manor was ever created and no large seignory or barony 
was established. 

*The contradiction has often been noted between the arch feudal ism of Locke's Funda- 
mental Constitutions and the individualist, laissez-faire liberalism of his Civil Government — 
a liberalism destined to have great intellectual impact on eighteenth-century America. The 
latter was written not much more than a decade later. This is largely true. However, we 
must also point out that a staunch defense of private-property rights will mean laissez-faire 
liberalism in a new country largely unsaddled by the yoke of feudal land tenure, while an 
equivalent defense in a country already hagridden by feudalism will be, at least in part, an 
apologia for feudal rather than justly private property and a free society. In short, the crucial 
issue is the justice of the private-property titles that are being defended. Glossing over this 
question means that the same set of principles may lead to a libertarian society in a nonfeudal 
America, where land titles devolved fairly rapidly upon the actual settlers, but to retention of 
quasi-feudalism in an England where land titles had been largely feudal. A conservative bul- 
wark for feudalism, when transplanted, can prove to be a radically libertarian call for a free 


We have seen that by the mid- 1670s, the Southern colonies were becom- 
ing ripe for revolution: accumulated grievances in Virginia and Maryland 
included English restrictions on tobacco, aggravated dictatorial rule by the 
governor in Virginia as well as growing Indian troubles, and also attempts 
to impose feudalism and Protestant anti-Catholicism in Maryland. But 
the Carolinas, small though they yet were, did not need a lengthy incuba- 
tion for serious rebellion. Indeed, with the attempt to impose an elaborate 
feudal structure upon the Carolinas, the new colony was ripe for rebellion 
almost immediately. This was particularly true of North Carolina, where 
an unusually independent group of small farmers exercised religious tol- 
eration, even for Quakers. Unburdened by feudal planters or a theocratic 
church, they were suddenly confronted with an attempt by a new English 
ruler to fasten upon them the very conditions for which they had left the 
Virginia settlement. North Carolina, which had a population of about 1,000 
in 1660, grew rapidly, its free atmosphere and complete religious freedom 
attracting religious sects and great admixtures of ethnic groups: Germans, 
French, Swiss, Scots, and Moravians. By the 1670s, its population totaled 
about 4,000, while new South Carolina was still well under 1,000. The Eng- 
lish navigation laws and restrictions on tobacco occasioned additional 
grievances among the tobacco-growing North Carolinian settlers. 

The free spirit of the North Carolina settlers was further reinforced by 
the failure of land grants for large plantations to take root there. This was a 
colony of small farmers who had largely settled there to assure their inde- 
pendence. It had no large town or city (the largest town was Edenton) that 
could serve as a convenient seat for governmental rule. The earliest arrivals 
either settled freely on the land or purchased it from Indian chiefs. The pro- 
prietary, anxious to make money by encouraging rapid settlement, adopted 
the equivalent of the Virginia headright system, first granting 100 acres to 
each settler, plus fifty acres of land for each person the settler brought over to 
the colony. By the 1680s the headright was sixty acres for each settler and 
sixty for each servant brought over. Each servant was also to receive 100 
acres of land on expiration of his term of service. This system, while subject 
to grave abuses through accumulation of headrights resulting in arbitrarily 
large land grants, at least assured a wide distribution of land in the colony. 
The land, from the first, was subject to restrictive conditions and charges, 
including a quitrent of half a penny per acre to the proprietor; but at least no 
initial purchase price was required to the grantee. Unfortunately, one-elev- 
enth of each division of land was to be reserved to the proprietors. 

In the early eighteenth century, the Virginia planter William Byrd was 
to write of the North Carolinians that they "treat [their governors] with all 
the excesses of freedom and familiarity. They are of the opinion that rulers 
would be apt to grow insolent if they grow rich, and for that reason take 
care to keep them poorer." Another shock to visitors was the absence of 
churches — apparently the North Carolinians preferred to practice their re- 


ligion in private. The great English founder of the Quakers, George Fox, 
visiting Albemarle in 1672, discovered to his chagrin that he could find no 
place of worship in all the colony. And some years later William Byrd was 
again stunned to find that "this is the only metropolis in the Christian or 
Mohammedan world where there is neither church, chapel, mosque, 
synagogue, or any other place of public worship of any sect or religion 



The Aftermath of Bacon's Rebellion 
in the Other Southern Colonies 

As Bacon's Rebellion entered its radical phase, Bacon tried to spread the 
revolutionary movement to the neighboring colonies, each of which had 
severe and often similar grievances against its government and the 
Crown. At the height of Bacon's Rebellion, in September 1676, sixty per- 
sons, led by William Davyes and John Pate, assembled in Calvert County, 
Maryland, to declare their opposition to crushing taxation and to Lord 
Baltimore's disfranchisement of the freemen. They also declared their re- 
fusal to swear to a new loyalty oath proposed by the proprietor. They refused 
to obey the governor's order to disband on promise to consider their griev- 
ances in the next Assembly, pointing out that the manipulated Assembly 
no longer represented the people. But the death of Bacon caused the quick 
collapse of the embryo Davyes-Pate rebellion, and Davyes and Pate were 
hanged after being denounced as traitors. The governor observed with sat- 
isfaction that the people were now suitably ''terrified." The threat was 
over, but the governor wrote in warning to Lord Baltimore that never had 
a people been "more replete with malignancy and frenzy." Apparently, 
the Maryland regime had had a close call. The result increased the bitter- 
ness in the colony against the proprietor. 

However, the struggle against the oppression of the feudal proprietary in 
Maryland had not been crushed. The veteran rebel Josiah Fendall of Char- 
les County, elected to the Assembly but barred from his seat for his re- 
bellious activities in 1660, now took up the libertarian torch. In particular, 
Fendall led a movement against high taxes and quitrents imposed by the 
proprietor. Fendall also championed freedom of speech — a rarity in that era. 
Philip Calvert denounced Fendall for "telling the people they were fools to 


pay taxes" and for allegedly saying that "now nothing was treason ... a 
man might say anything." Assisting Fendall were Thomas Gerrard, a vet- 
eran rebel and a Catholic, and John Coode, an ex -Catholic and ex-clergy- 
man, in a welcome display of religious amity. In 1681 Lord Baltimore had a 
law passed forbidding the dissemination of "false" news — that is, news 
aiming to stir up unrest and rebellion — in an attempt to hamper the 
Fendall movement. Finally, in the same year, a Fendall-Coode plan for 
rebellion was betrayed and the leaders imprisoned. The jury, drawn neces- 
sarily from the populace, favored the defendants, whereas the judges, 
being appointees of the proprietor, were hostile. Fendall was convicted, 
fined heavily, and exiled forever from the province. Coode, an Assembly- 
man, won acquittal. Lord Baltimore denounced Fendall and Coode as "rank 
Baconists" and wrote afterwards to a friend that had these leaders not 
"been secured in time, you would have heard of another Bacon." 

North Carolina (Albemarle) was also in a rebellious frame of mind in the 
mid- 1670s. Most grievous was the Navigation Act of 1673, which placed a 
prohibitory tax of one penny per pound on all intercolonial trading of tobac- 
co. The tobacco farmers of North Carolina, growing over one million pounds 
of tobacco a year, were heavily dependent on New England shipping for ex- 
porting their tobacco, and in turn for importing other products needed by 
the Carolinians. The tax crippled Carolinian trade, and the result was con- 
tinual evasion, and sporadic attempts by the government to crack down on 
the now illegal trade. Another important grievance was the feudal quit- 
rent that the proprietary tried to extract from the North Carolinian land- 
holders. At first, land grants were made there at a relatively small quit- 
rent of two shillings per 100 acres, the usual quitrent rate in Virginia. Then, 
in the 1660s the proprietary tried to double the imposed quitrent to one- 
half penny per acre, payable in specie. After vigorous protests, the proprie- 
tary in the Great Deed of 1668 retained the quitrent at the former rate. 
However, the proprietary tried again to raise the quitrent, this time to 
quadruple the rate to one penny per acre. Rumors, indeed, circulated about 
an eventual sixpence per acre levy. Attempts (eventually abandoned) to 
enforce the quadrupled quitrents fanned the flames of rebellion. 

To encourage settlement, the Assembly of 1669 limited land grants to 
660 acres, but this limitation did not apply to land given out by the propri- 
etors directly. Land was to be subject to forfeit if not worked by the grantees 
within six months. Trouble began to come to a head in Albemarle upon the 
passage of the crippling Navigation Act of 1673. With the colonists deter- 
mined to avoid payment of the tax, Governor Peter Carteret resigned and 
fled the colony and John Jenkins remained as acting governor. Jenkins, 
a precharter settler of Albemarle, belonged to the poplar opposition to 
the proprietary rule, opposition led by wealthy tobacco planter George Du- 
rant, one of the founders of the original settlement. Upon his assumption 
of office, Jenkins heroically determined not to enforce the Navigation Act 
upon the colony — in short, to occupy the post of ruler in order to diminish the 


extent of his rule. Jenkins simply ignored the order of the king to appoint 
collectors of customs with the duty of enforcing the hated levy. Finally, in 
two years, in 1675, the king appointed a collector for the colony. Until the 
arrival of the collector, Governor Jenkins could appoint a temporary collec- 
tor, and so he chose his closest associate, Valentine Byrd, who again simply 
failed to enforce the law. 

The Durant-Jenkins forces, though backed strongly by the bulk of the 
Albemarle people, were opposed by a faction led by the Speaker of the 
Assembly, Thomas Eastchurch, and by Thomas Miller. When Eastchurch 
and Miller moved to appeal to England for enforcement of the Navigation 
Act, Jenkins moved swiftly to crush the counterrevolution by jailing 
Miller for "treasonable utterances" and dissolving the Eastchurch-controlled 
Assembly. The Assembly, however, deposed and summarily imprisoned 
Jenkins, and Eastchurch went to England to induce the proprietary to crack 
down on the rebellious and independent colony. There he was joined 
by Miller, freed by the intervention of Sir William Berkeley. 

Thus, when Bacon's Rebellion broke out in 1676, Albemarle was fortu- 
nate enough to be without a governor and the hated Navigation Act was 
still not being enforced. This happy state was not to last for long, however, 
for the proprietors proceeded to select the two leaders of the pro-Navigation 
Act clique as the new rulers of the colony: Eastchurch as governor, and 
Miller as secretary and collector of the customs. On the way to America in 
1677, the two men stopped in the West Indies. Eastchurch decided to stay 
for a while to get married, and sent Miller on to North Carolina to act as 
governor in his stead. 

Miller quickly proceeded to use his double power with predictable ruth- 
lessness. He zealously tried to suppress the illegal tobacco trade, and also to 
enforce the higher quitrents. In addition, Miller interfered with elections 
and arbitrarily set a price on the head of many prominent leaders of the 
province. On the always convenient pretext of "defense against the Indi- 
ans," Miller organized a military guard that terrorized Albemarle and im- 
posed a heavy debt on the struggling colony. 

With Miller now added to the provocation of the Navigation Act and 
other grievances, North Carolina was truly ripe for rebellion. George Durant 
had fearlessly threatened the proprietors with revolt upon hearing of East- 
church's appointment. The revolutionary ferment was stirred further by 
the example of Bacon's Rebellion in neighboring Virginia, by the influx of 
rebellious Baconian refugees from that colony, and by the influence in Albe- 
marle of former governor William Drummond, one of the Baconian leaders. 
Furthermore, the popular opposition had another dynamic leader in 
John Culpeper, surveyor-general of Carolina, who had years ago been arrest- 
ed in South Carolina for sedition and rebellion, and had escaped north to 
avoid the hangman. Arriving in Albemarle, he joined Durant and the oppo- 
sition, and called upon the people to resist the enforcement of the Naviga- 


tion Act. The revolution, in short, needed but a spark to be ignited into 
flame. It found its spark in December 1677, when a New England mer- 
chantman arrived at Albemarle with a cargo of supplies. Miller arrested 
the skipper, who promised to leave at once and not return. When the North 
Carolinians tried to persuade the master of the cargo to stay, Miller arrest- 
ed the eminent George Durant on the charge of treason. This tyran- 
nical act touched off the rebellion and Culpeper, Valentine Byrd, and their 
men arrested the governor and his Council and called free elections for a 
new Assembly. The elections revealed the overwhelming popular support 
for the rebellion, and the newly elected Assembly appointed a Council and 
chose John Culpeper as governor and collector of the customs. The Assembly 
proceeded to indict Miller, appoint new justices in the colony, and warn 
Eastchurch, hurrying to the American mainland, to stay out of Albemarle. 

Culpeper and his allies governed Albemarle for a period of two years. 
Culpeper justified his actions in a manifesto charging Miller with tyranny 
and corruption. The new governor was clearly in a difficult spot. With 
Virginia again tightly under the rule of the Berkeleyan oligarchy, and with 
the rebellion in Maryland a failure, Culpeper's tiny colony could hardly 
hold out in independence indefinitely against the might of England. 
Culpeper could hardly take the route of ultimate independence, which 
Bacon had begun to envision before his death. An immediate threat from 
Virginia loomed when Governor Eastchurch arrived and prepared to lead 
a military force against the colony. Eastchurch's death, however, ended 
that menace. Culpeper felt that he had to move quickly. Going to England, 
he pleaded his case there in conflict with Miller, who had escaped from 
prison in Albemarle. Culpeper convinced the proprietors of the Tightness 
of his case, but the Crown, more sensitive to rebellion, arrested Culpeper 
for treason. Culpeper was defended by the leading Carolina proprietor, 
the Earl of Shaftesbury (Lord Ashley Cooper), and was acquitted, but he 
had been permanently deposed from power. 

Miller was deposed and Durant freed by the proprietors, but the whole 
system against which the rebellion had protested — including the attempt 
to levy a quitrent of a penny an acre — remained intact. For a few years, 
affairs proceeded smoothly, as the newly appointed governor, Seth Sothel, 
who had bought the Earl of Clarendon's one-eighth share of Carolina, was 
captured on his way to America by pirates and held captive for three 
years. In the interim, the Durant party remained in control with Jenkins 
selected by the Council as acting governor, but now meekly enforcing the 
British regulations. Attempts by Miller and his associates to stir up counter- 
revolution met with no success. In 1683, however, the supposedly moderate 
Sothel was released from captivity, and the North Carolinians were soon 
to find that if they had been chastised with whips they were now to be 
chastised with scorpions. For Sothel proceeded to terrorize and plunder the 
colony without mercy. One of his favorite devices was to seize any prop- 


erty that he fancied, and then to imprison any owner who had the temer- 
ity to object. A typical incident: when two ships arrived from the West 
Indies, Sothel seized their perfectly legitimate captains as "pirates" 
and confiscated their property. One of the captains died in prison 
from maltreatment. Before death, the captain made a will naming as 
executor of his estate one of the leading men of the Albemarle colony, 
Thomas Pollock. Governor Sothel, however, refused to probate the will 
and seized the dead man's property hinself. When Pollock threatened to 
tell the story to England, Sothel imprisoned Pollock as well. The chain of 
imprisonments continued to lengthen: when George Durant protested 
against such proceedings as unlawful, Sothel immediately jailed Durant 
and confiscated his entire estate. Sothel withheld and pocketed the salar- 
ies of subordinate officials and accepted bribes from criminals. To make the 
cup of the Carolinians still more bitter, Virginia passed a law 
in 1679 prohibiting any importation of Carolina tobacco. The motives for 
the law were twofold: to stifle the competition of Albemarle tobacco and 
to assert an irredentist Virginia territorial claim to sovereignty over 
Albemarle. This crippled Albemarle's tobacco still further and left it even 
more dependent on the illegal smuggling to New England. Moreover, 
the Virginians incited border Indians to make war upon the Albemarle 



The Glorious Revolution 
and its Aftermath 


Sixteen eighty-eight was the year of the Glorious Revolution in England, 
the year when Great Britain experienced the last of its great political up- 
heavals of the turbulent seventeenth century. The Stuart king, the Catholic 
James II, was deposed in that year and the monarchy secured to the 
impeccably Protestant William and Mary of Orange. This year of upheaval 
signaled the troubled and oppressed colonies to seize the opportunity of 
Britain's distraction at home to try to secure their own freedom. 

By ironic coincidence, Lord Baltimore sent William Joseph as deputy 
governor to run the Maryland colony in late 1688, and Joseph opened the 
Assembly only nine days after James II had been deposed by William and 
Mary. In his opening address — delivered considerably before news of the 
Glorious Revolution reached America — Joseph proved himself to be an ex- 
treme advocate of divine and feudal right to rule. He declared: "The power 
by which we are assembled here is undoubtedly derived from God, to the 
King, and from the King to his Excellency the Lord Proprietary, and from 
his said Lordship to us." 

When news came of the change of regimes in England, people angrily 
remembered that Joseph had, in the fall of 1688, insisted on the colony's 
giving thanks for the birth of a Catholic heir to the throne. Agitation also 
arose in the colony because Lord Baltimore's courier, coming to order the 
colony to proclaim allegiance to William and Mary, died en route and left 
Maryland in unresolved ferment. All the latent anti-Catholicism of the 
Protestant masses in the colony rose to the surface, aided by the fact that 
the proprietor was Catholic and the privileged oligarchy in Maryland 


largely so — the appointed Council, for example, had a Catholic majority. 
Was a Catholic plot under way? Would the proprietary refuse to acknowl- 
edge William and Mary and join James II in his plans for war against his 
successor? James soon landed in Ireland with French troops, and the 
colonists well remembered that James* proconsul in Ireland was Richard 
Talbot, Duke of Tyrconnel, a relative and close friend of Lord Baltimore. 
Rumors swept all the American colonies, not only Maryland: the French 
colonies were about to march on the English colonies in alliance with 
James; Catholic subversives were planning to help them; and Catholics 
and Indians were conspiring together to massacre Protestants. It is under- 
standable that the agitation would be most severe in Maryland, where 
the proprietor was Catholic and the bulk of the people Protestant. 

In April 1689 there was formed "an Association in arms for the defense 
of the Protestant Religion, and for asserting the right of King William and 
Queen Mary to the Province of Maryland and all the English Dominions." 
Leading the association was John Coode, the old revolutionary who had 
been freed for his part in the Fendall revolt of 1681. Coode had married a 
daughter of his old confrere, Thomas Gerrard. Other leaders included many 
eminent men in the colony: Nehemiah Blakiston, collector of the 
customs; another son-in-law of Gerrard, Kenelm Chesseldine, Speaker of 
the House of Burgesses; and Colonel Henry Fowles of the militia. When 
rumors spread that the Catholics were arming themselves in the 
statehouse at St. Marys, Coode, at the head of several hundred armed men, 
marched on the capital. On August 1, Joseph and the Council surrendered 
to the Coode rebels, Coode and the Assembly petitioned William and 
Mary to end the proprietary regime and finally, in 1691, the new king 

Coode and his followers engaged in violent anti-Catholic propaganda 
in the course of their revolutionary agitation. However, Coode's close 
association with Catholics and his ancient opposition to the proprietary 
lead to the conclusion that, at least on Coode's part, the anti-Catholic 
agitation was but a convenient point d'appui for his aim of ridding 
Maryland of the tyrannical and feudal proprietary. In Coode's own history 
of the rebellion, he stressed the "injustice and tyranny under which we 
groan ... the absolute authority exercised over us in the seizure of their 
persons, forfeiture and loss of their goods." 

While the Coode rebellion succeeded in overturning the proprietary, the 
success was only temporary. Aside from the fact that the structure of 
land tenure remained the same, the proprietor was only displaced for a 
short period of years. When the third Lord Baltimore died in 1715, the 
Crown granted the proprietorship once again to the Baltimore family, 
which had converted from Catholic to Protestant. In the meanwhile, the 
Crown continued to turn over part of the collected quitrents to the pro- 


What did change was the religious complexion of the government and 
society in Maryland. The old tradition of religious toleration in Maryland 
was abandoned, taxes immediately began to be levied in 1692 for the es- 
tablishment of the Anglican church, and any further immigration of 
Catholics into the colony was prohibited under severe penalties. Further- 
more, the public celebration of the mass was outlawed. The capital city was 
summarily shifted from St. Marys, the center of Catholicism in the colony, 
to Protestant Providence, now renamed Annapolis. (So much was St. 
Marys strictly a governmental city that it now rapidly diminished to the 
virtual status of a ghost town.) 

Only a small minority of the colony were Anglicans. The Puritans, 
leaders in the rebellion against the proprietary, were naturally chagrined 
to be confronted with an established church, but they were appeased when 
assured in 1702 of freedom of worship, which extended even to Quakers. 
This limited toleration was established despite the strenuous efforts of 
the head of the Anglican church in Maryland, Dr. Thomas Bray. Bray had 
persuaded the Assembly to pass a bill outlawing all forms of worship but the 
Anglican form in the colony, but fortunately this extreme provision was 
disallowed by the Crown. Also irritating was the fact that the Anglican 
ministers were paid by a new poll tax, which was most heavy on the poor. 
The spirit of Crown toleration, however, did not spread to the Catholics, 
against whom William pursued his long-time vendetta. The spirit of the 
government of the time may be seen from a 1704 incident, in which 
two Catholic priests were arrested for saying mass. They were refused 
the benefit of counsel; the chapel of St. Marys, venerated by Catholics as 
the first church in Maryland, was closed down as "scandalous and offensive 
to the government"; and Governor John Seymour delivered to the priests 
the following diatribe: 

It is the unhappy temper of you and all your tribe to grow insolent upon 
civility and never know how to use it ... if the necessary laws that are made 
were let loose, they are sufficient to crush you, and which (if your arrogant 
principles have not blinded you) you must need to dread. You might, methinks, 
be content to live quietly as you may, and let the exercise of your superstitious 
vanities be confined to yourselves, without proclaiming them at public times 
and in public places, unless you expect by your gaudy shows and serpentine 
policy to amuse the multitude and beguile the unthinking weakest part of 
them — an act of deceit well known to be amongst you. ... In plain and few 
words, if you intend to live here, let me hear no more of these things; for if I 
do ... be assured I'll chastise you. . . . I'll remove the evil by sending you 
where you will be dealt with as you deserve. . . . Pray take notice I am an 
English Protestant gentleman and can never equivocate. 

The House of Delegates was so pleased by this tirade that they formally 
commended the governor for protecting "Her Majesty's Protestant sub- 
jects here against the insolence and growth of Popery. ..." 


Anti-Catholic hysteria surged through England and the colonies, in the 
course of a lengthy war waged by England against Catholic France, and 
of attempts by the Stuart pretender to return to the throne. The crackdown 
on Catholics was pursued zealously in Maryland. No Catholic was permitted 
to buy real estate or to practice as a lawyer. Loyalty oaths were to be forced 
upon all Catholics, and any who refused would be incapable of inherit- 
ing land or holding office. The oaths were deliberately worded in such a 
way that no conscientious Catholic could swear to them. The Test Oath, 
as required by an Act of 1699, compelled the oath-taker to swear: "I do 
believe that in the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper there is not any tran- 
substantiation. . . . And that the invocation or adoration of the Virgin Mary 
or any other saints, and the sacrifice of the Mass as they are now used in 
the Church of Rome, are superstitious and idolatrous." If a Catholic widow 
had married a Protestant, her children could be forcibly seized by the state 
and placed under Protestant guardians. Catholics were also assessed at 
rates for emergency tax levies double those of everyone else. A special 
duty was also levied on all Irish "papist" servants coming into the colony: 
the duty was doubled in 1717. Catholic priests were in 1698 even prevented 
by proclamation of the governor (as urged by the House of Delegates) from 
visiting the sick and dying during a plague. The proclamation ranted: 

Several Popish priests and zealous Papists make it their constant business 
(under pretense of visiting the sick . . .) to seduce, delude, and persuade divers 
of His Majesty's good Protestant subjects to the Romish faith, by which means 
sundry . . . have been withdrawn from the Protestant religion, by law es- 
tablished, and from the due and natural obedience they owe to his said Majesty 
and laws, whereby the party, so reconciled and withdrawn, as well as their 
procurers and counsellors, have justly incurred the penalty and forfeitures 
of high treason. 

Not only were the priests and their possible dying converts subject to 
severe penalty, but also anyone who knew of such offenses and did not 
inform the authorities. 

In 1704 a truly comprehensive act was passed for the persecution of 
Catholics. Catholics were prohibited from practicing their religion, and 
priests from exercising their office. A reward of 100 pounds was offered to 
any informer giving evidence against a priest saying mass, and the penalty 
for a convicted priest was life imprisonment. It was life imprisonment 
as well for any Catholic found guilty of running a school or educating a 
child. Children were encouraged to inform on their parents "to the end 
that the Protestant children of Popish parents may not . . . want of fitting 
maintenence. ... Be it enacted . . . that if any such parent in order to the 
compelling such . . . Protestant child to change . . . religion, shall refuse to 
allow such child a fitting maintenance suitable to the degree and ability 
of such parent . . . then upon complaint thereof ... it shall be lawful ... to 
make such order. ..." 


Fortunately, however, Queen Anne, less intolerant than her Anglican 
minions in Maryland, decided to allow private family practice of the 
Catholic religion. As a result, Catholic services remained partially under- 
ground by being held in family chapels on planters' estates, with other 
Catholic families of the area invited as "guests." 

Benedict Calvert, the fourth Lord Baltimore, had taken the precaution 
of converting to the Protestant faith, and so when his father and he both 
died in 1715, the Calverts were handed back the proprietary title, which 
now went to Charles Calvert, fifth Lord Baltimore. The resumption of 
the now Protestant proprietary by no means slackened the pace of perse- 
cution. The Anglicans were worried about continuing conversions from 
their faith and Governor John Hart ordered the surveillance of Catholic 
priests; any suspected of visiting the homes of dying persons were forced 
to take the Test Oath. Refusal to swear to the Test Oath meant imprison- 
ment. In 1716 a law decreed that any officeholder caught in any "Popish 
assembly" and participating in the celebration of the mass would forfeit 
his office. And finally, in 1718 the Catholics of Maryland were disfranchised 
through making the Test Oath a requirement for voting. 

One amusing byproduct of the anti-Catholic hysteria among the Mary- 
land Anglicans was the apparent existence of a plot by Governor Hart and 
some leading Anglican clergymen to spread the rumor that young Lord 
Baltimore and his guardian Lord Guilford were secret Catholics. They 
thereby hoped to persuade the Crown to turn the proprietary over to Hart 
himself. The man who reported the plot to the bishop of London was him- 
self a leading Anglican minister in the colony, the Reverend Jacob Hender- 
son. Henderson in turn was accused of being soft on Catholics, an accusation 
he indignantly denied. 

The oppressive poll tax for support of the newly established Anglican 
church was made payable in a fixed rate in tobacco, which was then the 
medium of exchange in Maryland. Gresham's law operated here as in 
currency, and since the law did not specify the quality of tobacco, payment 
was always made in the very poorest and most unmarketable grades. 
As a result, Maryland's established clergymen were continually impover- 
ished and only the poorest quality of them settled in the colony. 

The Carolinas 

The North Carolinians, inspired by the Glorious Revolution, seized the 
opportunity to rid themselves, once and for all, of the tyranny of Seth 
Sothel. An uprising in 1689, led by Thomas Pollock and other leading col- 
onists, resulted in the arrest of Sothel and his banishment from the province 
for a year. Sothel was removed permanently from the governorship. He 
then hied himself to the sister colony of South Carolina, where he was also 
one-eighth proprietor. The proprietary appointed Colonel Philip Ludwell 
the new governor of Albemarle, now called North Carolina. Ludwell, 
Virginia's leading Berkeleyan, was instructed to redress the grievances 


of the colonists arising from the Sothel regime. Captain John Gibbs, who 
had apparently been chosen by the Council as governor to succeed Sothel, 
tried to maintain the revolutionary impetus, and in 1690 launched an 
armed rebellion against Ludwell. But the conciliatory policy had done its 
work and Gibbs' rebellion lacked popular support. Gibbs and his band were 
defeated and fled to Virginia. Gibbs and Ludwell both went to London to 
put their cases before the proprietary and Gibbs, as might have been 
expected, was repudiated. 

Though growing rapidly, South Carolina had a population of something 
over 3,100 in 1690, still by far the smallest of the Southern colonies. This 
colony too was racked by strife and accumulated grievances. Like its 
fellow colony Albemarle, Charleston colony suffered from the crippling 
restrictions on its tobacco and intercoastal trade inflicted by the Navi- 
gation Acts. It also bitterly resisted repeated attempts by the proprietors — if 
anything more determined than in Albemarle, for less settler resistance 
was expected farther south- — to impose Shaftesbury's grandiose feudal 
proposals on the colony. In addition, South Carolina suffered from the de- 
mand that quitrents be paid at the far higher rate in coin instead of in 
commodities. In 1682, the proprietary suddenly decreed that all quitrents 
must be paid in English money, thus eliminating the option to pay in 
commodities, and it tightened enforcement of the levy. The aroused 
Assembly protested that the people had been "extremely hard dealt with," 
but the proprietors retorted that their regulations had been designed to 
counteract those who "instilled fancies" into the heads of the people in 
order to avoid payment of quitrents. 

Further problems were caused by the practice of kidnapping Indians 
to use for slaves and thus make economically viable the tobacco planta- 
tions, a procedure that naturally stimulated retaliatory attacks by the 
Indians. Conflicts unique to this colony arose from the unwillingness of 
the English settlers to allow the substantial number of new Huguenot 
immigrants to vote, and from a fear of a Spanish invasion into what the 
Spaniards regarded as their imperial territory. The Huguenots were 
French Protestant refugees from the revocation of the Edict of Nantes 
in 1685. 

James Colleton, a brother of one of the proprietors and given 48,000 
acres in the colony, arrived in South Carolina to become governor in 1687. 
He immediately alienated the colonists by preventing them from sailing 
on an expedition of war against the Spanish headquarters at St. Augustine, 
Florida. Colleton came to the colony determined to impose his will, and 
particularly to stop the widespread evasion of the hated Navigation Laws 
and quitrents. He insisted on enforcing these edicts to the hilt, and even 
on attempting to collect arrears of quitrents. Particularly bitter for the 
colonists was Colleton's expulsion, upon arriving at the colony, of all the 
menbers of the Assembly who opposed the restrictive laws and taxes. All 
this incurred the growing rage and resentment of the colony and especially 


of the Assembly. Finally, in 1689 the alarmed proprietors instructed 
Colleton to suspend all further sessions of the legislature. This tyrannical 
act further fanned the flames of incipient rebellion, spurred by the fact 
that the South Carolinian laws had to be renewed every two years to re- 
main in effect, and that a biennial term was now expiring. The final 
straw occurred in the spring of 1690, when Colleton imposed the despotism 
of martial law upon the colony. This embraced such actions as imposing 
a very heavy fine on a minister for delivering a sermon displeasing to the 
government. In addition, Colleton used his powers of martial law to grant 
himself a privileged monopoly of trade with the Indians. 

Revolution, as we have pointed out, is a time of rapid change, and this 
often means sharp changes in a person's values and his views of institu- 
tions. Seth Sothel, the former governor of North Carolina who was deposed 
the year before, had arrived in South Carolina to see a similar revolu- 
tionary process brewing against the tyranny of the governor in Charleston. 
Sothel had apparently learned his lesson; his views changed, and he became 
the leader of the people's opposition to Colleton. When Colleton inflicted 
the final act of repression in imposing martial law, Sothel led a revolu- 
tionary coup against the governor. Declaring himself governor, Sothel 
reconvened the suppressed Assembly and banished Colleton from the 
colony. Sothel's action was ignited by a petition signed by over four hundred 
of the leading citizens. The petition detailed the grievances of the people 
of the colony, including: the attempts to impose several variants of propos- 
als found in Locke's Fundamental Constitutions; the imposition of martial 
law; the governor's monopolization of the Indian trade; arbitrary arrests; 
expulsion for any excess of freedom of speech, even by a councillor; and 
attempts to enforce higher quitrents. 

Sothel was allowed to continue his rule for only one year. In the fall of 
1691, the proprietors ousted Sothel from office and charged him with high 
treason. Although Sothel was a one-eighth proprietor of the colony, it was 
also true that he had organized a revolution against the authority appointed 
by the proprietary as a whole. Sothel fled back to Albemarle, where his 
term of banishment was over, and where he soon died in poverty and 
obscurity. Especially notable in Sothel's brief term in office was his stim- 
ulating the Assembly to pass significantly liberalizing laws. In particular, 
the French, Swiss, and other non-English immigrants were granted rights 
equal to those of the English settlers, and severe punishment was decreed 
for anyone who killed a slave. Other new laws, on the other hand, were 
repressive: requiring licenses of all retailers of liquor, regulating ship's 
pilots, and regulating the Indian trade. The proprietors, on removing Sothel, 
unfortunately also nullified the laws of his administration. 

The ultimate failure of the revolution did not, of course, end the griev- 
ances underlying the unrest in the Carolinas. Grudgingly, the proprie- 
tary finally issued a general amnesty. For a while the proprietary tried 
the unsuccessful experiment of uniting the two Carolinas, appointing 


Philip Ludwell as governor of both colonies. The proprietors tried to force 
the North Carolinian colonists to send their representatives to the distant 
Charleston Assembly. This plan was quickly abandoned, and each of the 
Carolinas was governed by a deputy governor of its own, with the main 
governor stationed in South Carolina. Each colony also retained its own 
Assembly, and therefore essentially its own separate government. As in 
other liberalizing moves, the proprietors promised to abandon their at- 
tempts to impose the dicta contained in the Shaftesbury-Locke Funda- 
mental Constitutions; it was now acknowledged that the Carolinas were 
to be governed by the original charter. In addition, the proprietary removed 
all obstacles to freedom of trade with the Indians. It also vetoed an act of 
the Ludwell administration that harassed the rural Huguenots by requir- 
ing a uniform hour for all Sunday church services in the colony. Another 
constructive measure during the Ludwell term was that permitting 
quitrents to be paid in commodities. 

John Archdale, an English Quaker who had become one of the eight 
proprietors by purchasing the share of Sir John Berkeley, became governor 
of the Carolinas in 1695- He assumed office with the intent of allaying the 
grievances of the colonies. His term lasted for only one year, but that year 
saw a significant liberalization in the Carolina colonies. In the South, 
peace was made with the Indians; in particular, the practice of whites 
kidnapping and enslaving the natives was ended. Furthermore, the quit- 
rent burden was significantly lightened, including cessation of the attempt 
to collect the arrears. From the 1690s on, the main grievance concerning 
the quitrent had been the threat hanging over the colonists from the huge 
arrears of uncollected claims. Also, quitrents were made payable in com- 
modities as well as in money. From that point on, the quitrent of one 
penny per acre was scarcely enforced in the proprietary colony, and the 
expected revenue accruing to the proprietary dwindled to a negligible 
sum, not nearly enough to pay the expenses of the local officials. Further- 
more, Archdale reshuffled the South Carolina Council to give the Dissenters 
the majority, and also decreed that with rare exceptions the proprietors 
could not annul laws without the Assembly's consent. The liberal reforms 
continued the following year, during the administration of Archdale's 
successor, the Dissenter Joseph Blake, also a one-eighth proprietor. 
Blake's Act of 1697 admitted into full civil rights the important Huguenot 
population of South Carolina as well as other aliens, and guaranteed re- 
ligious liberty to all Christians except Catholics. This was an important 
reform in a colony where the large majority of people were Dissenters 
of one hue or another from the Church of England. Not until 1704, however, 
were the alien-born permitted to vote in South Carolina. 

The Archdale and Blake reforms hardly eliminated the basic conflicts 
in the colony. Thus, in 1698 the proprietary reneged on its promise — given 
in the wake of the Sothel rebellion against Colleton — to forget about the 


Fundamental Constitutions and a new variant of this thoroughly disliked 
proposal was introduced again and continued to be introduced until 1705. 

In 1699, indeed, the South Carolina Assembly saw fit to address a list 
of grievances to the proprietary. The list included violations of the require- 
ment of consent to all laws by the Assembly, and the accumulation of vast 
landed estates in the hands of a few privileged persons. The Assembly 
asked that no land tract be granted over the size of 1,000 acres. Even the 
king's collector of customs, the Tory Edward Randolph, warned the Crown 
in 1699 that "there are but few settled inhabitants in this province, the 
Lords [proprietors] having taken up vast tracts for their own use . . . where 
the land is most commodious for settlement, which prevents peopling 
the place. ..." The Assembly also objected strongly to the English tariff on 
South Carolina rice and naval stores (turpentine, pitch, tar) — but, as in 
the case of the other grievances, to no effect. 

A major grievance soon became Randolph himself, who had arrived in 
1699 to enforce vigorously the neglected Navigation Laws and the suppres- 
sion of popular but illegal trade. Randolph wrote to the Crown of his horror 
at the pervasive commerce, including trade with the Dutch, all with simply 
"no regard to the acts of trade." The institution of royal admiralty courts 
appointed by the Crown for vigorous enforcement also angered the colonists 
greatly. Indeed, the South Carolina Assembly, under severe pressure by 
the people, tried to pass laws in 1700 and 1701 — all of course vetoed — to 
restrict the activities of the royal customs officials. 

In North Carolina, the Archdale reforms also lowered the quitrents. 
Ludwell had attempted to do so, but had for his efforts been angrily removed 
from office by the proprietary. Soon attempts to collect a penny per acre 
were abandoned and the rate came to be set generally at two shillings per 
hundred acres, with payment accepted in commodities. For some land 
the quitrents were far less. Quitrents continued to be collected, at least 
partially, for the remainder of the proprietary term. Enforcement, how- 
ever, was often evaded, and the quitrents were generally absorbed in 
salaries to local officials, so that the return to the proprietors was small. 

From their beginning in the mid-seventeenth century, the Carolina 
counties had been conspicuous and notable havens of religious liberty. 
Here they contrasted to other American colonies, including their Spanish 
neighbors to the south. North Carolina, indeed, had been founded by in- 
dependent settlers escaping religious and political discrimination in 
Virginia. The proprietary had announced from the first its intention to 
establish the Church of England in the Carolinas, but driven by desire to 
profit by encouraging settlers in the colony, had never put this plan into 
effect. Into this relatively free haven, then, came numerous dissenting 
groups, including the much persecuted Quakers and Huguenots, and the 
Anglicans were in a considerable minority. In fact, even the Anglicans 
in South Carolina believed strongly in self-government on a congregational 


level and insisted eventually on appointing their own ministers. In this, 
they were influenced by the decentralizing spirit of the Presbyterian 
majority of the colony. And as for North Carolina with its preponderance of 
Quakers, there had not even been a single Anglican church or priest in the 
colony, so little was there of an Anglican establishment in the Carolinas. 

But this happy condition — this approach to separation of church and state- 
was not destined to last. Instead, at the turn of the eighteenth century, 
the Anglican Old Guard moved purposefully and aggressively to fasten a 
state church upon the only Southern colonies that had yet escaped this 
incubus. This was a particularly bitter pill for the dissenting majority that 
had enjoyed religious freedom. 

The Anglican aggression was ignited by events in England where, about 
1700, a renewed wave of Anglican repression under Queen Anne's regime 
was launched against the Dissenters. The peace accord with the Dissenters 
that had emerged from the Glorious Revolution and been embodied in the 
Toleration Act of 1689 was now rudely shattered. One of the leaders of a 
campaign dedicated to the extermination of the Dissenters within one 
generation was Lord Granville, who also happened to be the palatine of 
Carolina — that proprietor entrusted with colonial affairs. In 1704, Lord 
Granville instructed the new governor of South Carolina, Sir Nathaniel 
Johnson, a veteran supporter of the Stuarts and the Colleton regime, to 
secure the establishment of the church in the Carolinas. 

Johnson was confronted, in South Carolina, with an Assembly majority 
of Dissenters. To drive through an establishment bill, therefore, he had to 
resort to trickery and fraud. First, very early in the 1704 session when many 
members were absent, Johnson rushed through an act excluding all non- 
Anglicans from the Assembly. This measure was at least temporarily 
needed, in order to drive through an establishment bill without fear of the 
Dissenter majority; and the latter was accomplished by the fall of 1704, 
The bill established the Anglican church and imposed taxation on the pub- 
lic for its support. Many Anglicans opposed this tyrannical seizure; one, the 
Reverend Edward Marston, was deprived of his salary, deposed from his 
office, and almost arrested by the new Assembly. 

The understandably bitter dissenting colonists appealed the tyrannical 
law to the proprietor, who of course rejected the appeal. But the Crown and 
the Board of Trade were persuaded to nullify the two laws. The Crown did 
not want an establishment so severe on the rights of Dissenters that the 
growth and the commerce of the colony with England would be repressed. 
Even the bishop of London, whose diocese included the Carolinas, sided 
with the protesting colonists. The act of establishment, however, was dis- 
allowed because it was too liberal: it allowed the laymen of a parish to re- 
move a minister, thus striking at the principle of hierarchical control of the 
church by the state. 

If both edicts of the Crown had been immediately obeyed, the Assem- 
bly, now including a dissenting majority, would have never passed a new 


act establishing the Anglican church. Hence, Governor Johnson's new As- 
sembly of 1706, completely excluding Dissenters, rushed through a new es- 
tablishment act without the provision for lay removal of ministers. Lay 
members, however, were permitted to select their ministers. Tax funds 
were appropriated for churches and ministerial salaries; and church repairs 
were to be paid from assessments on all the inhabitants of the parish. The 
dissenting Assemblymen were only readmitted after the establishment 
bill was safely passed. 

The Dissenters were naturally angry at their treatment. Though they 
were no longer excluded from the Assembly, any repeal of the state church 
would be blocked by the governor s veto. The Dissenters rioted at length dur- 
ing 1707, the riots being led by a political club headed by prominent Dissent- 
ers. Included in these rebellious protests was a new phenomenon: a wom- 
an's political club. 

The Dissenters were also embittered because one of their great leaders, 
Landgrave Thomas Smith, was being persecuted by the Johnson regime. 
For criticizing the Assembly in a private letter, Smith was ordered arrested; 
when he escaped, the Assembly sought to disqualify Smith from public 
office for life. But, in this affair at least, the Dissenters had their revenge. 
Now Speaker of a Dissenter-controlled Assembly, Smith had the satisfac- 
tion of arresting former Speaker Colonel Risbee, the reputed author of the 
exclusion act, for disrespectful words spoken in private against the new As- 
sembly. Finally, the Dissenters also gained the temporary satisfaction of 
forcing the proprietors to remove the hated Johnson from office in 1708. 

The drive for a state church occurred at the same time in North Caro- 
lina, which was at least formally ruled by the South Carolina governor. The 
northern colony, true to its tradition, was even more dissenting and rebel- 
lious than its southern neighbor. North Carolina's troubles began with the 
appointment of Henderson Walker, a zealous Anglican, as deputy governor 
in 1699. Walker, deeply disturbed that North Carolina had successfully gone 
forty years "without priests or altar," maneuvered through the Assembly 
the Vestry Act of 1701, which imposed a state church on North Carolina, in- 
cluding a poll tax on the colonists for support of the Anglican clergymen. The 
act was disallowed by the proprietary for not going far enough in paying the 
clergy — but the fight had just begun. 

Lord Granville's instructions to the governor of South Carolina, Sir Na- 
thaniel Johnson, to secure whatever legislation was necessary to impose a 
state church on the Carolinas, led Johnson to replace Walker as deputy gov- 
ernor of North Carolina with Colonel Robert Daniel. Daniel could not hope 
to drive the establishment through the North Carolina Assembly, however, 
as it had a comfortable Quaker majority. The zealous Daniel therefore de- 
cided to attain his goal by expelling the Quakers from the Assembly, and 
used as his weapon a dubious legal application of the new Test Oath of alle- 
giance to Queen Anne, required of all public officials in England. This oath 
excluded Quakers, who by their religion could only "affirm" and could not 


swear to oaths. The expulsion of the Quaker assemblymen left the high- 
church party with a small majority and this party now drove through the 
new Vestry Act — establishing the church — as well as an act imposing the 
Test Oath for all public officials (including assemblymen) in the future. The 
embittered Quakers were able to pressure Governor Johnson to remove 
Daniel in 1705, but the damage had been done. Despite the establishment, 
however, Anglican zeal was so weak in freewheeling North Carolina that not 
until 1732 did the colony see a regular Anglican minister. 

The new deputy governor, welcomed by the Quakers for his supposedly 
liberal views, was Thomas Cary, a Charleston merchant and son-in-law of 
the great Archdale. But Cary betrayed his supporters by repressing the 
Quakers even more ardently than had his predecessors. Cary not only ex- 
pelled the Quakers from the Assembly, but also levied a heavy fine on any- 
one presuming to enter office without taking the Test Oath. Furthermore, 
Cary further weakened the Assembly by having an act passed fining anyone 
daring to promote actively his own election to any office. 

The numerous body of North Carolina Quakers finally sent John Porter 
(a non-Quaker) to England in 1707 to plead their case with the lord proprie- 
tors. Two of the proprietors, John Archdale and John Danson, were Quakers, 
and they persuaded the others of the justice of the Quaker case. The pro- 
prietors abolished the Test Oath, deposed Cary, suspended Governor John- 
son's authority over North Carolina, and authorized the Council of North Car- 
olina to select its own president, who would assume the full duties as gov- 

The Council then selected as president William Glover, who governed 
North Carolina in Cary's stead, but the Anglican Glover betrayed the Quak- 
ers in his turn by still insisting on enforcement of the Test Oath. John Por- 
ter and the infuriated Quakers now formed an alliance with the double- 
turncoat Cary to try to oust Glover from his rule. The election to the Assem- 
bly of 1708 was won by the Cary-Porter forces, who disregarded Glover's in- 
sistence on the Test Oath, declared Cary governor, voided all the laws of the 
Glover regime, and appointed many Quakers to office. Leader of the Cary 
forces in the Assembly was the Speaker, the powerful Edward Moseley, a 
wealthy planter and devout Anglican, who nevertheless steadfastly sup- 
ported religious freedom and opposed any establishment. Glover, however, 
refused to recognize the legality of this democratic upheaval and fled to 
Virginia still claiming the governorship. 

The relatively liberal Cary-Porter rule lasted until 1711, when the propri- 
etary decided to stamp out the seditious popular regime, and sent Edward 
Hyde, a cousin of Queen Anne, to be the new governor of North Carolina, 
now permanently separated from South Carolina. Hyde immediately in- 
stituted a regime of repression, allying himself completely with the Glov- 
erite faction. All the liberal laws, as well as the court proceedings of Cary's 
second administration, were nullified, and the Test Oath was reimposed 
on all public officials on pain of a heavy 100-pound fine for all refusals to take 


it. The Quaker Assemblymen were once again expelled. In addition, a 
law was passed to punish severely all "seditious words" or "scurrilous li- 
bels" against the government, the government itself, of course, being the 
judge of what was seditious or scurrilous against itself. Moreover, Cary and 
Porter were indicted for various crimes and misdemeanors. 

To counter this repression, Thomas Cary organized an armed rebellion 
against the Hyde regime. In the midst of the fighting, Governor Alexander 
Spottswood of Virginia sent a force of royal marines to aid Hyde, which 
counterrevolutionary intervention dispersed the rebellion. Cary and other 
leaders fled to Virginia. There he was arrested, however, and sent to Eng- 
land to stand trial for treason, but was released for lack of evidence. Thus the 
rebellion failed and the Test Oath remained in force in North Carolina. 

These struggles in the Carolinas weakened the authority of the proprie- 
tary and helped make them ripe for the abolition of proprietary rule in 
South Carolina in 1719 and in North Carolina in 1729. By 1730, then, the 
Carolinas and Virginia were both royal colonies, leaving Maryland with 
its restored proprietary as the only proprietary colony in the South. 

While these conflicts were going on, North Carolina was experiencing 
a rapid growth. A heavy influx of people came from Virginia, seeking more 
religious freedom or cheaper land free of arbitrary landed monopolies. 
North Carolina's status as a refuge is shown by Virginia's repeated accusa- 
tions that it was harboring runaway slaves. Finally, the first town was 
laid out in North Carolina: Bath, in 1704, which promptly became the capi- 
tal. Many of the immigrants were European refugees including French 
Protestant Huguenots and German and Swiss palatines. 

Treatment of the Indians, however, grew increasingly brutal. The white 
settlers had participated in the Indian fur trade, they had learned from the 
Indians techniques of clearing the unfamiliar land, of cultivating the soil, 
and of growing such new crops as corn, tobacco, and potatoes. Now the 
whites repaid the Indians by embarking on a campaign of decimation. 
Proclamations stated that the Indians would be exterminated "like ver- 
min," and the legislature of North Carolina granted bounties for Indian 
scalps. Indian prisoners of war, including many children, were sold into 
slavery by their captors. 



Virginia After Bacon's Rebellion 

The crushing of Bacon's Rebellion had left Virginia itself in the control of 
the despotic Governor Berkeley and his Green Spring clique. Even after 
Berkeley was recalled at the urging of the king's commissioners, the Green 
Spring oligarchy continued to rule the colony until news arrived in the fall 
of 1677 of Berkeley's death. At that point, news came of the appointment 
of Thomas Lord Culpeper as governor; until his arrival, Colonel Herbert Jef- 
freys, one of the king's commissioners, was to continue as lieutenant gov- 
ernor. But Jeffreys soon fell ill; and the Council, dominated by the Green 
Spring faction, effectively continued its oppressive rule of the colony. 

Jeffreys died at the end of 1678 and was succeeded by Sir Henry Chicher- 
ley, who at last held a fair election for the Assembly the following year. The 
new Assembly began to institute reforms: for example, reenacting Bacon's 
laws, authorizing the freemen and housekeepers of each parish to select 
two men to sit with the judges in the county courts. But Chicherley, too, was 
old and sick and reforms were therefore not pressed forward. Finally the 
king forced the reluctant Lord Culpeper to sail personally for Virginia or give 
up his governorship, and Culpeper arrived in the spring of 1680. One of his 
first acts was to urge the Assembly — at the king's instigation — to provide a 
"permanent" revenue for the support of the government, but the Assembly 
refused to turn over the crucial power of the purse into the hands of the royal 
governor. The Assembly, however, finally passed the bill after considerable 
bullying and threats by Culpeper. The governor also tried to force a fantasti- 
cally uneconomic plan on agricultural Virginia: compelling every county to 
construct a town and warehouse near water, and coercively restricting all 
trade in the county to that town. Fortunately, while the Assembly passed 


the law, the Crown realized the impracticality of such hothouse plans and 
vetoed the bill. 

Culpeper also faced the perennial tobacco problem. Tobacco had been 
suffering grievously from twofold government interference: a fall in prices 
due to trade restrictions imposed by the Navigation Acts, and the restric- 
tions of compulsory cartels. The restrictions raised tobacco prices, but at the 
expense of the more efficient farmers and planters, of reducing trade for 
all, and of greatly injuring American and European consumers. Moreover, 
the bulk of the price fall had been because of increased tobacco production. 
The fact that annual tobacco output in Virginia and Maryland in the 1680s 
reached twenty-eight million pounds shows that, for all the complaining, 
tobacco was still the most profitable line of investment. The repeated at- 
tempts at compulsory cartels cannot be excused on pleas of poverty. The 
fact that Virginia governors repeatedly tried to force the reduction of tobacco 
planting without success demonstrates that the profitability of tobacco was 
enough to overcome even government prohibition and trade restrictions. 
Thus, in 1640 the planter-dominated government had passed a Jaw compel- 
ling the burning of half the colony's tobacco crop, fixing the price of tobacco, 
and relieving debtors from paying one-third of their debts for three years. 
In 1662, Berkeley and the leading Chesapeake planters petitioned the king 
to outlaw all planting and shipping of tobacco during the following year. In 
response, King Charles II, following the tradition of James and Charles I 
in wanting to compel a shift from tobacco planting, ordered the restriction 
of planting. Commissioners from Virginia and Maryland met in May 1663 
and resolved to limit tobacco planting jointly; but though the Virginia As- 
sembly obediently agreed, the Maryland Assembly refused. Undaunted, 
the Virginia planters managed to arrange a conference of commissioners 
from the three tobacco colonies — Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina — in 
the summer of 1666, and they agreed to outlaw all tobacco planting for the 
year of 1667. All three Assemblies then approved this plan for injuring the 
consumers in order to raise tobacco prices, but the colonies were saved at 
the last minute by the veto of Lord Baltimore for Maryland. 

Now, in 1680, with tobacco crops even more bountiful, Culpeper resumed 
the old pressure by urging the king to prohibit all tobacco planting in Vir- 
ginia, Maryland, and North Carolina during the following year. The plan for 
total prohibition, incidentally, would have particularly benefited tobacco 
speculators who had purchased the crop; their accumulated stocks would 
benefit most from the temporary price rise. Most gravely injured would be 
the most efficient, lowest-cost planters — as well as the consumers. When 
the king did not agree to total prohibition, the big planters put on pressure 
for a session of the Assembly to outlaw a year's tobacco planting in Virginia 
alone. Crowds in each county, led by the prominent local planters, sent 
petitions and held meetings clamoring for an Assembly session. Under this 
pressure, the infirm Sir Henry Chicherley, again acting governor after Cul- 
peper had returned to England, called a special Assembly session for April 


1682. But Culpeper, at the last minute, vetoed the session, forcing it to wait 
until November, when he would be back in the colony. 

Deprived suddenly of their Assembly session, the planters rose in the 
"plant cutters rebellion." Beginning in Gloucester County on May 1, gangs 
of tobacco planters and their retinues engaged in an orgy of destroying tobacco 
plants, obviously the plants of those efficient and free-spirited planters 
who were willing to trust their fortunes to the marketplace. Despite 
arrests and patrols by the militia, the orgy of destruction spread to New 
Kent, Middlesex, and other counties. Lord Baltimore was moved to place 
armed guards along the Potomac to keep the frenzy from spreading to Mary- 
land. The opponents of the plant cutting gained control of the Council and 
charged that the leader of the uprising was Major Robert Beverley, clerk of 
the Assembly and a leader of the Green Spring clique. They charged also — 
and with reason — that Chicherley was under Beverley ; influence. Chicherley 
agreed to imprison Beverley, but otherwise issued a general pardon to the 
criminals, with one exception: for his punishment, one tobacco saboteur 
was ordered to build a bridge — a bridge conveniently near Chicherley's 
own plantation. 

Returning to Virginia in December, Culpeper, understandably enraged 
at the soft treatment of the plant cutters, went overboard and declared 
that tobacco destruction was treason and thereupon hanged two of the lead- 
ers as an example to the people. Culpeper showed good economic sense in 
keeping secret and thus suppressing the king's authorization to end tobacco 
planting; he realized that if the planting of tobacco were really excessive 
the inefficient producers would soon shift to other industries. 

Lord Culpeper's troubles with Virginia were aggravated by his unpopu- 
larity, for Culpeper, along with Lord Arlington, had received in 1673 the pro- 
prietary grant of thirty-one years of quitrents and escheats in Virginia. He 
had not received the right to govern, but his gaining of the governorship 
had been an attempt to enforce his feudalistic, proprietary claims. In 1681 
Culpeper bought out Lord Arlington's share, but on being ousted by the king 
in mid- 1683, he was happy in 1684 to sell his proprietary rights back to the 
Crown in return for a royal pension of 600 pounds a year for twenty-one 

But Culpeper's removal by no means meant the end of conflict in the col- 
ony. On the contrary, the appointment of the despotic Francis Lord How- 
ard began a four-year struggle in Virginia. Howard promptly launched a 
determined drive to exalt the royal prerogative over the Assembly and over 
the liberties of Virginians. Howard demanded a law to authorize the gover- 
nor and Council to levy a high poll tax, up to the sum of twenty pounds of 
tobacco. Such a bill would eliminate the need to keep returning to the As- 
sembly for annual appropriations. The burgesses, however, turned down 
the plan. Howard also wanted to revive the compulsory town-building plan 
and disclosed the king's instructions to eliminate the cherished custom of 
allowing judicial appeals from the (royally appointed) General Court to 


the General Assembly. The change meant that the administration of jus- 
tice was now completely under control of the governor and his appointed 
officials, including the Council. Furthermore, Howard, under royal instruc- 
tions, demanded that the Assembly repeal all permission granted to county 
courts and parish officials to make local laws, and to replace it by insisting 
that all local laws receive approval of the central government. But the bur- 
gesses failed to act on this proposal. 

The lower house, the House of Burgesses, was understandably disturbed 
at this comprehensive assault on their and Virginia's liberties, and a gen- 
eral struggle ensued between governor and burgesses. Howard also refused 
to disclose his instructions, and thus to end rule by secrecy. 

When the Catholic James II succeeded to the throne in February 1685, 
a new issue arose to exacerbate relations between Lord Howard and the 
people of Virginia. For Howard was a Catholic and he promptly proceeded 
to fire several officials of the colony and replace them with Catholics. To 
suppress the ground swell of criticism, Howard forbade all seditious dis- 
courses, and Colonel Charles Scarborough, a member of the House of Bur- 
gesses, was forcibly deprived of all his public offices. In addition, Howard 
persistently vetoed laws passed by the Assembly, persecuted its leaders, 
tried to bully it into meeting his demands. In all of this the majority of the 
governor's creatures, the Council, supported his actions. Another disturbing 
threat facing the House of Burgesses was use of the royal veto to impose 
laws, in effect, by vetoing their repeal. The burgesses sent a vigorous pro- 
test to the king against this practice, but the king countered by ordering 
Robert Beverley's removal as clerk of the House of Burgesses in late 1686, 
transforming the position into one appointed by the governor. 

Now that the main threat to Virginian liberties had become the Crown 
and the royal prerogative, the displaced Green Spring clique, out of favor, 
shifted to take the lead of Virginians opposed to royal encroachments. The 
clique was now led by Robert Beverley and Philip Ludwell, and Ludwell 
assumed the leadership of the liberal popular opposition to royal tyranny in 
the Council. Ludwell was expelled from the Council by Howard in 1687, the 
year of Beverley's ouster. Howard also dismissed two other leading bur- 
gesses from all public offices. 

Lord Howard raised fierce opposition by imposing a large fee of 200 
pounds of tobacco for stamping official papers, and by shifting payment of 
quitrents from tobacco to the higher-valued sterling. Furthermore, Howard 
quarreled with the burgesses over the military. Howard naturally advocated 
a bigger militia whereas the burgesses wanted to relieve the colonists of 
the oppressive tax-and-resource burdens of the armed forces, and urged dis- 
bandment of the troops of the colony. Howard also struck a grievous blow at 
local rights and Assembly powers by personally decreeing repeal of permis- 
sion given local courts and officials to make their own bylaws. 

After dissolving in disgust the Assembly at the end of 1686, Lord Howard 
determined to continue his rule while the Assembly met in session as 


little as possible. In early 1688 royal orders compelled Howard to call the 
Assembly in the spring to pass a law prohibiting the export of bulk tobacco. 
Since tobacco was exported either in bulk or in hogshead, the scheme was 
clearly an attempt to grant special privileges to the tobacco merchants 
who packed their tobacco in hogsheads by outlawing their competition. 
The Assembly was also asked to aid New York in its projected war against 
the French. But the Assembly courageously and defiantly refused such aid, 
since New York — it saw perceptively — was in no real danger, and since it 
steadfastly refused to levy still higher taxes upon Virginia. The Burgesses 
persisted in their refusal to bow to the royal demands. The House of Bur- 
gesses also rejected the king's bill to outlaw bulk tobacco exports, pointing 
out acidly and correctly that the bill was originated by London tobacco mer- 
chants, and not even by Virginia planters. 

During the Howard administration, the burgesses and the Virginians had 
lost the right to receive judicial appeals, to appoint their clerk, and to control 
certain revenues and fees. But the fierce struggle also helped retain many 
liberties for Virginians and the House of Burgesses — especially the general 
taxing power. Furthermore, a host of oppressive laws were spurned by the 
independent-minded Assembly. 

The battle between Lord Howard and the bulk of Virginians came rudely 
to an end with the Glorious Revolution of 1688. Howard happened to be in 
England when the news came of James Us overthrow and the president 
of the Council became acting governor. 

The Glorious Revolution had an unusually mild impact upon Virginia as 
compared with its effect on the other colonies, south and north. Rumors 
fed by anti-Catholic hysteria led the people of the Northern Neck, already 
disgruntled from opposing the Culpeper proprietary, to take up arms in 
their "defense." The new climate meant the Crown would grant a much 
friendlier hearing to Virginia's numerous grievances, and to Virginia's 
agent in England, Philip Ludwell. Howard made a determined attempt to 
stay in office, but Ludwell finally prevailed, and the Crown ordered the end 
of the hated fee of 200 pounds of tobacco for the official stamping of docu- 
ments. Howard kept the nominal title of governor, but Capt. Francis Nichol- 
son, lately lieutenant governor of New York, was sent to Virginia to rule 
as lieutenant governor. During the Nicholson administration of 1690-92, the 
governor managed to harmonize with and reconcile the opposition, al- 
though no fundamental reforms were passed. 

Increasingly coming to the fore was one of Virginia's most bitter griev- 
ances — the problem of land monopoly in the Northern Neck. In 1649 Charles 
II had arbitrarily granted the enormous tract of land between the Rappa- 
hannock and Potomac rivers to Lord Hopton and a group of his friends, includ- 
ing Sir John Berkeley. Hopton's circle now had proprietary control of reve- 
nues from the area, but not of political power. In 1669, however, a renewed 
grant gave control of the local governmental policies at Northern Neck to 


the proprietors. The proprietary menace to the Northern Neck could well 
have been ended when Lord Culpeper sold his proprietary claim to Virginia 
in 1684. But not only did the king refuse to buy the Northern Neck claim, he 
transformed the thirty-one-year grant into a permanent charter. 

Philip Ludwell was not destined to remain long in his new role as cham- 
pion of the liberties of the people. Ludwell joined the employ of Lord 
Culpeper as agent for managing the Neck, and soon Ludwell began to ap- 
point government officials in the Neck area. 

In early 1692, Lord Howard resigned from his nominal post as governor of 
Virginia and was succeeded by Sir Edmund Andros, formerly head of the 
Dominion of New England who now came to Virginia to assume the reins 
of power. Andros was an arch-Tory, fond of the royal prerogative, and so he 
resumed all the oppressions and conflicts of the Howard era. Andros insisted 
on a forced town-and-port creation program, but this and another revived bill 
to prohibit the export of bulk tobacco failed to pass the House of Burgesses. 
The burgesses also refused once more to send aid to New York, pointing out 
incisively that New York was not Virginia's first line of defense and indeed 
that the Iroquois — staunch allies of New York — were a most severe threat to 
Virginia. Finally, however, in 1695 the burgesses gave in to Andros' pressure 
and sent military aid to New York, paying for it by a temporary liquor tax. 

Andros also introduced a frightening new note into his struggle with the 
colonists: continued hints that Virginia land titles were really invalid. 
Nothing could have been better calculated to inflame the opposition of the 

One of the most important men in Virginia beginning in the 1690s was 
the Reverend James Blair, a young Scottish Anglican who had been ap- 
pointed in 1689 as representative, or "commissary," in Virginia of the bish- 
op of London. This was the first such appointment in America. Blair was 
instrumental in inducing the Assembly in 1691 to create a free govern- 
mental college, the College of William and Mary, rooted in the Anglican 
faith. Money for construction was raised from the Crown and the bulk of 
the governing trustees were selected by the Assembly, which also paid its 
operating support. Reverend Blair received a life appointment as president 
from the Assembly and was so confirmed by the bishop of London. 

Blair combined political, ministerial, and educational activities, assum- 
ing a seat in the Council in 1694. He soon broke with Andros, who was ap- 
parently not theocratic enough for the young minister. Blair agitated for 
increased support for the established church, and King William and Queen 
Mary responded by asking the Assembly to pay the clergy in money or in 
tobacco valued at current prices. The House of Burgesses replied tartly that 
the ministers were well enough paid; whereupon, in mid-1696, the Angli- 
can clergymen of the colony petitioned the Assembly for greater salaries 
and subsidies. The legislature yielded to the pressure, and increased sub- 
sidies for the ministers. 


Blair's pressure finally resulted in Andros' removal in the spring of 1698, 
and his replacement as governor by Francis Nicholson, now returning to 
Virginia as full-fledged governor, rather than as Culpeper's deputy. 

Nicholson effected a few badly needed reforms: on royal instructions, he 
had the great powers of the Council over the colony reduced; no longer could 
councillors be customs collectors, naval officers, and auditors all in one — thus 
reducing the practice of councillors' sitting in judgment on their own 

Nicholson also tried to institute land reforms. During the 1680s and 1690s, 
land engrossing through large arbitrary land grants had grown apace. Gover- 
nor Andros, in particular, had granted large tracts to individuals, by selling 
to individual engrossers "rights" to land. The old headright system of grant- 
ing fifty acres of land for each person settled in or brought to Virginia was 
hardly ideal; but selling rights to fifty-acre plots at one to five shillings per 
"right," completely cut the natural link between land settlement and 
ownership, and added to the monopolizing of unused land by speculators. 

Typical of land abuses in Virginia was the case of a large planter, William 
Byrd II. The law required a land grantee to establish at least one settler to 
every 100 acres of his grant within ten years of the date of issue. Now this 
was hardly a satisfactory safeguard against land abuses, since the grantee 
rather than the settlers themselves was considered the property owner. 
The settlers either were forced into a quasi-feudal subservience to the 
privileged grantee, or else had to buy the land at prices far higher than the 
zero price that would have obtained without the engrossment by the 
government and its pet grantees. Of course, the settlers still had to spend 
money immigrating, clearing the land, etc., but at least no arbitrary cost 
would have been imposed on top of these expenses. Yet, despite these 
grave weaknesses, the law at least tried to establish some connection be- 
tween landownership and settlement, and grantees like Byrd proceeded 
to evade even this vague limitation. 

Thus, in 1688 William Byrd obtained a grant from the government of 
over 3,000 acres. He failed to get the land settled within the ten years, but 
being head of the Virginia land office he managed to delay forfeiting the 
land until 1701. At that point, Byrd got the same tract regranted to his close 
friend Nathaniel Harrison, who soon had the land regranted to Byrd for 
another ten years' chance. An additional tract of 6,000 acres was secured by 
Byrd. Failing to settle it in time, he had it transferred to his son. 

Nicholson tried to reform these practices, but accomplished little. In his 
first administration he tried to revoke some land grants, but the Council 
refused to cooperate; in his second term he prohibited the practice of gain- 
ing more headright land by bringing in more Negro slaves. On the other 
hand, far less helpful were Nicholson's attempts to enforce quitrent pay- 
ments to the Crown. 

During the Nicholson administration, Virginia changed its capital from 
Jamestown nearby to the newly created city of Williamsburg in the spring 


of 1700. A more lasting achievement was Nicholson's proclamation in 1703 
of the English Act of Toleration in Virginia. Liberty of conscience for all 
religions was guaranteed, except for non-Protestants. This action guar- 
anteed religious freedom to the new and growing dissenting Protestant 
sects in Virginia, especially Presbyterians, whose form of worship was 
quite close to the low Anglicanism of the colony. 

The irascible Nicholson soon fell to quarreling with the Blair faction, by 
now intermarried with the powerful Ludwells. The Blair-Ludwell clique 
immediately began to plot for Nicholson's recall. Six councillors, led by Blair, 
submitted such a petition to Queen Anne in 1703, accusing Nicholson of 
personal bullying and despotic behavior. But the governor took his case 
openly to the Assembly and the public in the spring of 1705, and the majority 
of the House of Burgesses, as well as the great majority of the Anglican 
clergymen of the colony, came to Nicholson's defense. The bulk of the clergy 
petitioned England, denouncing Blair's attack on the governor and hailing 
Nicholson's administration. One of Blair's friends published a bitter attack 
on the convocation of clergymen, the first stanza of which pointedly de- 

Bless us! What dismal times are these! What stars are in conjunction! When 
priests turn sycophants to please, And hare-brained passion to appease; Dare 
prostitute their unction. 

Finally, in the summer of 1705 Blair succeeded and Nicholson was re- 
moved as governor. He was replaced by a new system. Appointed as gover- 
nor-in-chief of Virginia was the Earl of Orkney, who remained in England 
for forty years, drawing a good salary for his post while taking no interest 
whatever in colonial affairs. As lieutenant governor, in actual charge of 
Virginia, the Crown appointed Major Edward Nott. 

During the short-lived Nott administration, the new governor tried once 
again to push through a bill forcing Virginia to build ports and to restrict all 
trade to them. The Port Bill was instigated by English merchants, who 
would have found it cheaper and more convenient to concentrate their 
shipments at a few ports rather than having to trade at each planter's 
wharf. The Crown, however, disallowed the bill and thus finally ended the 
menace of compulsory ports in Virginia. The Crown also became alarmed 
that Virginians were shifting from tobacco to cotton or wool raising and 
manufacturing. In the imperial mercantilist framework, the colonies 
were not supposed to compete with imperial manufactures; they were 
supposed only to supply raw material and then purchase the finished product 
from the mother country. The Board of Trade ordered Nott to discourage any 
cotton planting in Virginia. 

The big dispute of the Nott administration was over the established 
church. The oligarchic Council, led by Blair, was anxious to put the Anglican 
Church on a more secure footing by raising ministers' salaries and securing 
greater tenure in office. Nothing was done, since the relatively liberal 


House of Burgesses had opposite objectives. One objective was to reduce the 
church oligarchy by periodically dissolving the ruling bodies of the church, 
that is, the vestries, which had become self-perpetuating bodies of church 
elders. Both parties deadlocked, and neither set of changes could pass, an 
impasse aggravated by the Anglican clergy's denunciation of the high- 
handed tactics of the "Scot hireling," Blair. The deadlock meant that the 
overwhelming majority of Anglican ministers in Virginia — those not offi- 
cially inducted into office — held office only on the sufferance of the particular 
board of vestrymen. 

Nott died a year after his induction and the next four years were politi- 
cally uneventful, as the president of the Council served as acting governor 
of the colony. 

While Virginia, in the decades after Bacon's Rebellion, increasingly 
settled down to a rather placid oligarchic rule, one element in Virginia 
society persisted in being the reverse of placid about its condition. From 
Bacon's Rebellion to 1710, the colony seethed with incipient and actual re- 
volts by the Negro slaves. Being an oppressed minority of the populace, the 
slaves, in revolt by themselves and lacking mass white support, could not 
hope to succeed, and yet they continued to try to break through to freedom. 

In the early 1680s, the Virginia legislature was troubled enough to pass 
the Act for Preventing Negroes Insurrections. Frequent meetings of Negro 
slaves were denounced as "dangerous," as conspiratorial activity abounding 
"under pretext of feast, and burials." Yet, despite such precautions, slave 
revolts broke out in Virginia in 1687, 1691, 1694, 1709, and 1710, as well as in 
other years. 

The 1687 uprising was centered in Virginia's Northern Neck. The plan of 
uprising was uncovered, and the leaders executed. The Council, as a conse- 
quence, prohibited public slave funerals, which the rebels had used as their 
meeting ground. But this did not prevent the uprising of 1691, in which the 
slave Mingoe, having escaped his master in Middlesex County, gathered 
a guerrilla band and attacked plantations, especially in Rappahannock 

By 1694 Governor Andros condemned the lack of enforcement of antislave 
rebellion legislation, thus permitting Negroes to "run together in certain 
parts of the colony, causing assemblages so dangerous as to threaten the 
peace of the whole community." 

As Negro slaves increased in number after the turn of the century, threats 
of slave rebellion grew correspondingly. Early in 1709 a plot for rebellion by 
both Negro and Indian slaves in Surry, James City, and Isle of Wight coun- 
ties was uncovered. The court inquiry found that the "late dangerous con- 
spiracy [was] formed and carried on by great numbers of . . . Negroes and 
Indian slaves for making their escape by force from the service of their 
masters, and for the destroying and cutting off such ... as should oppose their 
design." The revolt conspiracy was led by four slaves: Scipio, Peter, 
Salvadore, and Tom Shaw. 


The following year, a slave revolt planned for Easter in Surry and James 
City counties was betrayed by the slave Will, whose freedom was pur- 
chased by the Virginia legislature as a "reward of his fidelity and for en- 
couragement of such services." It was ironic that the informer should be 
rewarded with the very goal that the rebels were desperately trying to 
achieve: freedom. The two main rebel leaders were duly executed, said 
Lieutenant Governor Jennings, "to strike such terror in the other Negroes 
as will keep them from forming such designs in the future. . . ." 


Part III 

The Founding of New England 


The Religious Factor 

Religion was one of the principal traits distinguishing the Northern from 
the Southern colonies. In the South the state-established Church of England 
tended to be dominant, but the Northern colonies were largely settled by 
members of churches dissenting from the established church. These Dis- 
senters came to America largely because they desired to create communi- 
ties in which they could practice their beliefs undisturbed. 

The Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century had taken two 
broadly different paths. In the rising absolute monarchies of Europe, the 
state gained control over the church within the nation (whether Protestant 
or Catholic) and found it more consonant with its own power-structure to 
maintain the episcopal system. On the other hand, independent and de- 
centralized cities and provinces, such as Switzerland and the Netherlands, 
were the home of far more thoroughgoing reform in religious doctrine 
and structure. In these (Calvinist) countries, bishops were eliminated and 
ministers appointed directly by the state. 

In England, the church, created as a state church by the Crown, not only 
maintained episcopacy but was far closer than the Lutherans to Roman 
Catholic doctrine and practice. Protestantizing reforms were soon intro- 
duced into the church, but the Catholic church during the reign of Queen 
Mary drove the more radical of the reformers to Holland and other Conti- 
nental centers of advanced Protestant theology and practice. When the 
Church of England was reestablished under Elizabeth in 1559, the returning 
reformers found the Anglican church even less reformed than before they 
had gone into exile. They now concentrated on seeking a purification of 
religious ceremonies within the Anglican church and were thus called 


Puritans. The Puritans came to hold important church and university posi- 
tions and to exercise a strong influence in the government and in Parlia- 
ment, but the government soon summarily removed them from their 
posts. Persecution polarized the Puritans, who began to advocate the puri- 
fication of the church organization (which had blocked the purification of 
rites) by eliminating the role of the bishops. Some of the reformers (the 
Separatists, or Congregationalists) doubted the possibility of reforming the 
state church from within, and illegally withdrew from attendance at 
church to organize separate reformed churches, vesting autonomous control 
in each congregation. 

The bulk of the Puritans, however, were influenced by the Calvinist or 
Presbyterian form of church organization dominant in the Netherlands and 
parts of Switzerland, where their leaders had lived in exile. In the Presby- 
terian system, first established at Geneva, each church or congregation 
was, to be sure, ruled by elders — the preaching elder, or minister, and the 
ruling elder, or leading layman. But to prevent diversity of doctrine, the 
congregation selected the minister and elder only with the advice and con- 
sent of a synod or consistory of the ministers and elders of the churches of the 
district. While the role of the leading laymen in the church was high, state 
officials in Geneva were restricted to church members, and this limited 
the selection of magistrates to laymen who were under the influence of 
the ministers. Thus, in contrast to Anglicanism, control of the church was 
partially replaced by church control of the state. This Presbyterian method 
of church organization, negating the roles of king and bishops, tended to 
appeal to the ministers and to the local community oligarchs — nobles, 
gentry, merchants — whose powers over the people would thus be increased 
at the expense of their political opposition, the king and his officials. In 
France, England, Scotland, and the Netherlands a large portion of local polit- 
ical leaders became Calvinist and Presbyterian. 

Since the English government strongly punished suspected Calvinists, 
the Presbyterian organization was not directly introduced into England, 
and the Puritans, aided by their intellectual center at Cambridge Univer- 
sity, spread their beliefs from within the Anglican church, by which they 
influenced the important groups and industrial populations of London, 
East Anglia, and the West Country. 

When James I succeeded Elizabeth in 1603, one of his earliest problems 
was to face Puritan demands for reform of the Anglican church. The Mille- 
nary Petition, signed by about a thousand Puritan ministers of the Church 
of England (or about one-tenth of all the clergymen of that church), re- 
quested modifications in church ceremonies and protection from govern- 
mental persecution. Because of its Presbyterian overtones, the petition 
was rejected and some three hundred of the Puritan clergymen were 
removed from their positions in the Church of England. The majority of the 
Puritan clergy, however, continued to conform outwardly to Anglican 
church ceremonies, in order to continue their reform movement undis- 


turbed. In contrast, some of the Separatists or Congregationalists who had 
already left the Church of England decided they could no longer bear the 
persecution and fled England. As Pilgrims, they went to the Netherlands in 

Let us now return to colonization in the early seventeenth century. 
We remember that the earliest English settlement in America was 
founded by the London, or "South Virginia," Company in 1606. The 
"North Virginia," or Plymouth, Company had been granted the American 
territory from the forty-first to the forty-fifth parallel. The Plymouth Com- 
pany had landed an expedition in Maine in 1607, but it was forced to re- 
turn home the following year and then sunk into desuetude. In 1620, Sir 
Ferdinando Gorges, a favorite of King James, was anxious to secure a mo- 
nopoly of the fisheries on the northern American coast. To this end, Gorges 
secured from the king a new charter. Replacing the Plymouth Company was 
the Council for New England, now completely separate from Virginia, and 
the territory actually granted to the company was greatly extended to include 
the land between the fortieth and the forty-eighth parallels. President of the 
Council was the Duke of Buckingham, an unpopular favorite of King James, 
and leading members were Sir Ferdinando Gorges and the Earls of Pembroke, 
Lenox, and Southampton. The Council was granted powers of rule, the sub- 
granting of land in the territory, and a monopoly of shipping on the New 
England coasts and therefore, implicitly, a monopoly of the fishing rights. 



The Founding of Plymouth Colony 

The mere granting of land by the Crown did not yet create a settle- 
ment. The first successful settlement in New England was something of 
an accident. By 1617 the Pilgrims had determined to leave the Nether- 
lands, where their youth were supposedly being corrupted by the "licen- 
tiousness" of even the Calvinist Dutch, who, for example, persisted in en- 
joying the Sabbath as a holiday rather than bearing it as a penance. De- 
ciding to settle in America, the Pilgrims were offered an opportunity to 
settle in New Netherland, but preferred to seek a patent from the South 
Virginia Company, which would provide an English atmosphere in which 
to raise their children. The Pilgrims formed a partnership in a joint-stock 
company with a group of London merchants, including Thomas Weston, 
an ironmonger, and John Peirce, a clothmaker. The company, John Peirce 
and Associates, received in 1620 a grant from the Virginia Company for 
a particular plantation in Virginia territory. In this alliance, each adult 
settler was granted a share in the joint-stock company, and each invest- 
ment of 10 pounds also received a share. At the end of seven years, the accu- 
mulated earnings were to be divided among the shareholders. Until that 
division, as in the original Virginia settlement, the company decreed a 
communistic system of production, with each settler contributing his all 
to the common store and each drawing his needs from it — again, a system 
of from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs. 

Just over a hundred colonists sailed from England on the Mayflower in 
September 1620. Of these, only forty-one were Pilgrims, from Leyden, 
Holland; eighteen were indentured servants, bound as slaves for seven 


years to their masters; and the others were largely Anglicans from En- 
gland, seeking economic opportunity in the New World, 

Bound supposedly for the mouth of the Hudson River, the Mayflower de- 
cided instead to land along what is now the Massachusetts coast — outside 
Virginia territory. Some of the indentured servants began to grow res- 
tive, logically maintaining that since the settlement would not be made, 
as had been agreed, in Virginia territory, they should be released from their 
contracts. "They would use their own liberty, for none had power to com- 
mand them." To forestall this rebellion against servitude, the bulk of the 
colonists, and especially the Pilgrims, decided to establish a government 
immediately, even though on shipboard. No possible period without gov- 
ernmental rule was to be permitted to the colonists. The Pilgrim minor- 
ity straightway formed themselves on shipboard into a "body politic" 
in the Mayflower Compact, enabling them to perpetuate their rule over 
the other majority colonists. This, the first form of government in the 
New World established by colonists themselves, was by no means a ges- 
ture of independence from England; it was an emergency measure to 
maintain the Pilgrim control over the servants and other settlers. 

In mid-December 1620 the Mayflower landed at Plymouth, In a duplica- 
tion of the terrible hardships of the first Virginia settlers, half of the colo- 
nists were dead by the end of the first winter. In mid-1621 John Peirce and 
Associates obtained a patent from the Council for New England, granting 
the company 100 acres of land for each settler and 1,500 acres compul- 
sorily reserved for public use. In return, the Council was to receive a 
yearly quitrent of two shillings per 100 acres. 

A major reason for the persistent hardships, for the "starving time," 
in Plymouth as before in Jamestown, was the communism imposed by 
the company. Finally, in order to survive, the colony in 1623 permitted 
each family to cultivate a small private plot of land for their individual 
use. William Bradford, who had become governor of Plymouth in 1621, 
and was to help rule the colony for thirty years thereafter, eloquently 
describes the result in his record of the colony: 

All this while no supply was heard of. . . . So they began to think how they 
might raise as much corn as they could, and obtain a better crop than they 
had done, that they might not still thus languish in misery. At length . . . the 
Governor (with the advice of the chiefest among them) gave way that they 
should set corn every man for his own particular, and in that regard trust to 
themselves. . . . And so assigned to every family a parcel of land ... for that 
end, only for present use. . . . This had very good success, for it made all 
hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise 
would have been by any means the Governor or any other could use, and 
saved him a great deal of trouble, and gave far better content. The women 
now went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to set 
corn; which before would allege weakness and inability; whom to have com- 
pelled would have been thought great tyranny and oppression. 


The experience that was had in this common course and condition, tried 
sundry years and that amongst godly and sober men, may well evince the 
vanity of that conceit of Plato's . . . that the taking away of property and 
bringing community into a commonwealth would make them happy and 
flourishing. . . . For this community . . . was found to breed much confusion 
and discontent and retard much employment that would have been to their 
benefit and comfort. For the young men, that were most able and fit for 
labour and service, did repine that they should spend their time and strength 
to work for other men's wives and children without any recompense. The 
strong . . . had no more in division of victuals and clothes than he that was 
weak and not able to do a quarter the other could; this was thought in- 
justice. . . . Upon ... all being to have alike, and all to do alike, they thought 
. . . one as good as another, and so . . . did . . . work diminish . . . the mutual 
respects that should be preserved amongst men. . . . Let none object this is 
men's corruption ... all men have this corruption in them. . . .* 

The antipathy of communism to the nature of man here receives eloquent 
testimony from a governor scarcely biased a priori in favor of individualism. 

Plymouth was destined to remain a small colony. By 1630 its popula- 
tion was still less than four hundred. Its government began in the May- 
flower Compact, with the original signers forming an Assembly for making 
laws, choosing a governor, and admitting people to freemen's citizenship. 
The governor had five assistants, elected also by the freemen. This demo- 
cratic setup signified a very loose control of the colony by the Peirce 
company, which wanted to accelerate the growth of the colony, and saw 
the Pilgrim dominance as an obstacle to such growth. Religious exclusive- 
ness in a colony necessarily hampers its growth; we have seen that Lord 
Baltimore soon abandoned the idea of Maryland as an exclusively Catholic 
colony in order to encourage its rapid development. Thus, persecution of 
non-Separatists for playing ball on Sunday and for daring to observe 
Christmas as a holiday was hardly calculated to stimulate the growth of 
the colony. 

To inject some variety into the colony, the English merchants therefore 
sent the Rev. John Lyford, a Puritan within the Church of England, with a 
group of colonists to Plymouth. As soon as Lyford began to administer the 
sacraments according to the Church of England, his correspondence was 
seized by Governor Bradford, and Lyford and his chief supporter, John 
Oldham, were tried for "plotting against Pilgrim rule both in respect of 
their civil and church state." To the charge of Lyford and Oldham that 
non-Pilgrims were being discouraged from coming to Plymouth, Governor 
Bradford replied that strangers were perfectly "free" to attend the Pilgrim 
church as often as they liked. When Bradford spread the stolen letters, 
critical of the government, upon the record, Oldham angrily called upon 
the Assembly to revolt against this tyranny, but no one followed his lead. 
The Reverend Lyford instantly recanted and groveled in his errors before 
the court. 

•William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation, 1620-47 (New York: Knopf, 1952), pp. 120-21. 


Both men were ordered banished from the colony. Oldham went thirty 
miles north, with a number of the discontented, to found a settlement at 
Nantasket (now Hull). Included in this company were Roger Conant and 
William and Edward Hilton, who shortly traveled further north to join 
David Thompson, a Scottish trader who had established a settlement at 
what is now Portsmouth, New Hampshire, at the mouth of the Piscataqua 
River. The Hiltons were later to found the nearby town of Dover, New 

In return for his abasement, the Reverend Lyford was put on six 
months' probation, but again some critical letters to England were pur- 
loined by the government, and this time Lyford was truly expelled and 
went on to join the Nantasket settlement. 

The Pilgrims, however, had not seen the last of the rebellious band. In 
the spring of 1624, the Pilgrims built a wharf some sixty miles north, on 
the current site of Gloucester, at Cape Ann in northeastern Massachu- 
setts, only to find the following spring that Lyford, Oldham, and their 
group had moved there. They had been invited to Gloucester by the Dor- 
chester Company of merchants from western England. The company's 
founder, the Rev. John White, a Puritan, had already established a fishing 
village at Gloucester in 1623. Roger Conant was now installed as super- 
intendent of the community, and Lyford became its pastor. Upon returning 
to Gloucester to find the dissidents established there, the first instinct of 
Plymouth's military leader, Capt. Miles Standish, was, typically, to demand 
the surrender of the unwelcome wharf, but cooler heads prevailed and a 
peaceful compromise was soon reached. The Pilgrims, however, could not 
make a go of this fishing station and abandoned it at the end of the year. 

Upon the bankruptcy of the Dorchester Company the following year, 
the Conant-Oldham group left Gloucester, and moved fifteen miles 
down the coast to found the town of Naumkeag, later known as Salem. 
Lyford was its Anglican minister. 

In 1625, Thomas Morton, gentleman lawyer and an agent of Sir Ferdi- 
nando Gorges, organized another settlement, Merrymount, north of 
Plymouth at the present site of Quincy, Massachusetts. Merrymount was 
an Anglican settlement, and the citizens did not comport themselves in 
the highly ascetic fashion to which the Plymouth Separatists wished them 
to conform. Apparently Merrymount was merry indeed, and whiskey and 
interracial (white-Indian) revelry abounded, including the old Anglican 
(but denounced by the Pilgrims as pagan) custom of dancing around a 
maypole, a practice which King James I had urged in his Book of Sports 
(1617). Plymouth had established friendly relations with the Indians, but 
Merrymount was now threatening to compete most effectively with 
Plymouth's highly lucrative monopoly of the beaver trade with the Indians. 
Merrymount was also a place where Morton set his servants free and made 
them partners in the fur trade, and thus it loomed as a highly attractive 
haven for runaway servants from Plymouth. 


The Pilgrims denounced Morton's colony as a "school of atheism" — 
"atheism" apparently signifying the use of the Anglican Book of Common 
Prayer, the maypole, and selling rum and firearms to the Indians (and 
buying furs in exchange). The sale of rum and firearms was condemned 
even though relations with the Indians had been perfectly peaceful. Then, 
in 1628, Plymouth established a virtual New England tradition of persecu- 
tion by dispatching Captain Standish with an armed troop to eradicate 
Merrymount. Having surrendered on the promise of safe treatment to 
himself and the settlement, Morton was assaulted by Standish and his 
men and almost killed, the Plymouth forces "not regarding any agreement 
made with such a carnal man." Hauled into a Plymouth court — despite 
Plymouth's lack of legal jurisdiction over Merrymount — Morton was almost 
executed; his death was urged at great length by Miles Standish. Finally, 
he was deported back to England, with Standish still threatening to kill 
Morton personally before he could leave the colony. Before deportation, 
Morton was confined alone for over a month of severe winter at the Isles 
of Shoals without a gun, knife, or proper clothing. 

Despite the destruction of Merrymount, and the failure of other attempts 
at settlement, the 1620s saw several settlements dot the Massachusetts 
coast. Most important was the Roger Conant group at Naumkeag; another 
was a settlement at Boston led by the Puritan minister, Rev. William 
Blacks tone. 

In 1627 the inherent conflict between colony and company in Plymouth 
was finally resolved, by the elimination of the company from the scene. 
In that year, the seven years of enforced communism by the company 
expired, and all the assets and lands were distributed to the individual 
shareholders. Grants of land were received in proportion to the size of the 
stock, so that the larger shareholders received larger gifts of land. This 
complete replacement of communism by individualism greatly benefited 
the productivity of the colony. Furthermore, the colonists took the happy 
occasion to buy up the shares of the Peirce company. Plymouth was now a 
totally self-governing colony. By 1633 the entire purchase price had been 
paid and the colonists were freed from the last remnant of company, or 
indeed of any English, control. 

There still remained, of course, the overlord Council for New England. 
In 1630 the Council granted a new patent to the Plymouth Colony, clearly 
defining its territory, and recognizing its right to freedom of trading and 
fishing. But Governor Bradford limited the privileges of trade to the 
original Pilgrim partners — the Old Comers — and kept the patent in his 
own possession before relinquishing it in 1641. Plymouth was destined to 
remain a small colony in which the nominal rulers, the freemen, were 
rarely consulted, and the governor and the Council imposed an oligarchic 
rule. But after the Council for New England was dissolved in 1635, Plym- 
outh nevertheless became a fully self-governing colony. 



The Founding of Massachusetts Bay 

When the tiny band of Separatists left England in 1608, the great bulk 
of English Puritans, despite the persecutions of the early part of the 
reign of James I, were highly confident of their future in England and of 
the potential for reform within the English church structure. Why then 
the intense Great Migration only one generation later? What had hap- 
pened to sap the confidence of the English Puritans? 

At the beginning of the seventeenth century, virtually all of England's 
export trade consisted of unfinished woolen cloths, which were sent to the 
Netherlands for finishing and dyeing and to be reexported to the north 
for grain. In the decade following the conclusion of peace with Spain in 
1604, the woolen trade, and hence the English economy, flourished. But 
parliamentary refusal to approve any further taxes in protest against 
rising taxation, as well as the persecution of Puritan clergy, led, in 1614, 
to the Crown's dissolution of Parliament. In its search for revenue, the 
Crown then decided to create new monopolies — and its meddling in the 
vital wool trade had disastrous results. On the proposal of Alderman 
Cockayne of the Eastland Company, the government suspended the 
charter of the Merchant Adventurers (an attempted monopoly in the 
export of unfinished cloth), and completely prohibited the export of un- 
finished cloth upon which the prosperity of England rested. Instead, a new 
charter was granted to a syndicate of Eastland Company and Levant 
Company merchants in a new company, the King's Merchant Adventurers, 
which had a legal monopoly of the export of finished and dyed cloth, half 
the profits of which were to be paid to the Crown. 


The English government failed to realize that the English were not 
technically equipped for finishing and dyeing cloth; the higher costs of 
finishing woolens in England left an open field for the emergence of a 
new competitive cloth industry on the Continent. As a result, English 
woolen exports fell by a catastrophic one-third in two years, and the 
repeal of the prohibition in 16 16 could not succeed in reviving the cloth 
trade. Not only did the tax-crippled English industry have to compete 
with the low-cost industry of the Continent, but the outbreak of the Thirty 
Years' War in 1618 brought about a Continent-wide debasement of cur- 
rencies, a debasement that aided exports from the debasing countries at the 
expense of such other countries as England. Renewal of war in the Nether- 
lands in 1622 further disrupted the vital market there, and the result was a 
continuing great depression in England in the twenties, a depression and 
unemployment concentrated particularly in the cloth-making centers of 
East Anglia and the West Country. 

Fearful of rising political opposition sparked by the depression, the 
government tried desperately to relieve the victims of the depression by 
maintaining wage rates at a high level and keeping failing companies in 
operation. The result was only to prolong and intensify the depression 
the government was trying to cure: artificially high wage rates deepened 
unemployment in the clothing centers and imposed higher costs on an 
already high-cost industry; propping up of inefficient producers wasted 
more capital and ruined their creditors; and the domination of inefficient 
monopoly companies was tightened at the very time when the industry's 
salvation could only come from freer competition and escape from the 
taxation and regulation of government. The overcapitalized monopoly 
companies were especially hard hit by the depression; the East India and 
Muscovy companies defaulted to their creditors, and the Virginia Com- 
pany's difficulties resulting from the government's monopoly of tobacco 
sales led to its dissolution. Hence the royal assumption of power over the 
Virginia colony. 

One growing light on the economic horizon was the exportation of the 
lightweight "new draperies," produced free from government control, and 
over which no monopoly company held sway. Export trade in these new 
draperies was developing in southern Europe by the 1620s. The contrast 
in the fortunes of the two branches of cloth trade was too great to be 
ignored — the connection between free trade and economic growth, and 
between privileges and decline was becoming evident to contemporaries. 

In successive Parliaments the representatives of the people demanded 
freedom in economic and political affairs and the termination of the 
government's restrictions, monopolies, and taxes that had brought about 
the depression engulfing the country. The government responded charac- 
teristically by imprisoning the opposition leaders, such as Sir Edwin 
Sandys and Lord Saye and Sele, for advocating free trade, radicalism, and 
interference with tax collection. The Parliament of 1624 presented a list 


of grievances in protest against the moratoria issued to debtors against 
their creditors, against the increases in government officials and expenses, 
against extraordinary tariffs and taxes, against the government's use 
of informers and enforcement of regulations and controls, and against the 
monopoly trading companies, which were popularly regarded simply as 
gangs of thieves, from the East India Company to the Council for New 
England. The Parliament concluded by passing the Act Against Monopolies, 
by which all monopolies were outlawed and all proclamations furthering 
them prohibited. Unlike the depression of the 1550s, which had led to 
the unquestioned creation of monumental government controls over the 
economy, the depression of the 1620s witnessed an attempt toward liberali- 
zation by removing the regulations that had caused the crisis. The move- 
ment for the abolition of the government's monopolies and regulations 
became a major part of the seventeenth-century constitutional struggle 
in England, and had a significant influence on the American colonists, 
whose migration was a fruit of the government's controls. 

However clear the principles of liberalism had become, the struggle for 
their realization in the seventeenth century had hardly begun. The acces- 
sion of Charles I to the throne in March 1625 ushered in a period of con- 
flict that was to span the mid-seventeenth century. The financial difficulties 
of the new government were greatly increased when England decided to 
enter the Thirty Years' War by attacking Spain in 1625- 

The English government had remained behind the scenes in the early 
phases of the war, acting through diplomacy and subsidies, despite the 
pressure of Puritan opinion for greater aid to the Calvinist forces of 
Germany, which had gone to war with Austria, and to the United Provinces, 
which had renewed the war with Spain and had suffered heavy defeats 
by the two Hapsburg powers. When the English government intervened 
in an alliance of the Lutheran powers of northern Europe with the anti- 
Hapsburg Catholic powers of southern Europe, it tried to use the excite- 
ment of war preparations as a convenient means of gaining taxes from 
Parliament. However, the Parliament refused to be stampeded by the 
crisis of European Protestant fortunes, and refused to vote taxes until the 
government had redressed grievances, especially in church reform. For 
the major authority in government on ecclesiastical matters was Rev. 
William Laud, archbishop of Canterbury, who strongly opposed Puritanism 
in doctrine and in practice, and who had embarked upon a policy of 
eliminating all churchmen suspected of Puritan sympathies and pro- 
moting those whose theology and devotions the Puritans considered 
Catholic in origin. 

The persecution of the Puritan clergy was matched by imprisonment 
of the opposition leaders and of merchants who refused to pay the taxes 
that Parliament had refused to approve. Moreover, the people were 
conscripted or had soldiers quartered in their homes if they refused to 
pay these taxes. It was this climate of increasing religious and political 


persecution placed on top of the continuing economic depression that led 
the Rev. John White, a mildly Puritan minister from Dorchester and 
founder of the Dorchester Company, to revive the project of a settlement 
on the coast of New England. A settlement was projected to form a colony 
of West Country Puritans who would find refuge without having to submit 
to the tyranny of the religious and social conformity of the Separatists at 
Plymouth. Surely if the relatively humble Separatists could succeed in 
America, the far wealthier and more powerful Puritans could succeed all 
the more. The old Dorchester Company was bankrupt, but in 1628 White 
formed the New England Company with other Puritans and with old 
Dorchester associates, and secured a grant from the Council for New 
England of all the land between three miles south of the Charles River 
(which runs through Boston) and three miles north of the Merrimack (now 
the Massachusetts-New Hampshire border). Immediately John Endecott 
and a major financier of the company, Matthew Cradock, were sent out, 
with settlers, to take control of the Naumkeag settlement — by then re- 
named Salem — and for Endecott to supersede Conant as governor. 

John Endecott's idea of rule was that God had chosen him as "a fit 
instrument" for establishing a new Canaan for the chosen people by rooting 
out all lesser folk, red and white, preferably by means of the pillory and 
the whipping post. His major struggle was to cripple the livelihood of the 
old settlers by prohibiting their tobacco culture and beaver trade, 
turning these over to the New England Company. The "old planters" 
could only protest in vain that they were becoming slaves to a monopoly 

During the spring of 1629, still harder-line Puritans immigrated to the 
New England colony, and their ministers established a quasi-Separarist 
church based on a congregational covenant. Old planters who refused to 
go this far from the Church of England and embrace the covenant were 
persecuted by Endecott as "libertines," and some were deported to 
England, where the Rev. John White tried vainly to protect them. Many 
of the old planters expelled from Salem by Endecott moved to Rev. 
William Blackstone's settlement at Boston and Charlestown. 

Migration under the New England Company was small, but the rush of 
events soon intensified Puritan desires to seek a haven in the New World. 
Having added a war against France in 1627 to the conflict with Spain, 
the Crown was obliged to call Parliament into session to provide financing 
for the war effort. But Parliament took the occasion to present a petition 
of its grievances to be met before voting taxes for the king's adventures. 
The Petition of Right (June 1628) denounced taxation without consent of 
Parliament, arbitrary arrests without benefit of habeas corpus, and the 
quartering of the government's soldiers upon the people. Insistence upon 
these libertarian demands before supply of revenue led to the king's 
dissolution of Parliament in March 1629 and to the Crown's arrest of the 
leaders of the opposition. 


Thus, English Puritans faced the gloomy prospect of greatly intensified 
repression at home, at the hands of the absolute royal power and its 
prerogative courts (of the High Commission and the Star Chamber). 
Puritan gloom was further deepened by the aggravated plight of their 
fellow Calvinists on the European continent. England's military operations 
against France and Spain had failed, especially in trying to relieve the 
French Huguenots (Calvinists) besieged by the French Crown at La 
Rochelle; the Huguenots were forced to surrender to the French forces 
in October 1628. Early the following year, the Protestant powers in 
Germany concluded a humiliating peace issuing from the almost un- 
interrupted string of losses they had suffered in the first decade of the 
Thirty Years' War. Finally, the Calvinist United Provinces in the Nether- 
lands were undergoing serious losses at the hands of the Spanish army. 
Thus, everywhere in Europe the Catholic powers were triumphant, and 
the Protestants suffering losses. As the Puritan leader John Winthrop 
concluded, during 1629, "All other Churches in Europe are brought to 
desolation, and it cannot be but the like judgment is coming upon us." A 
secure sanctuary in America seemed to be vital for Puritan survival. 

Seeing their plight, the Puritans were able to persuade Charles I to 
grant a royal charter in March 1629 to the Massachusetts Bay Company, 
the more powerful successor of the New England Company. Coincidentally, 
the charter was granted just four days after King Charles' dissolution of 
Parliament. The old unincorporated company had now become an in- 
corporated body politic with power to govern its granted territory. The old 
grant of land was reconfirmed. The new company was to appoint the 
governor, deputy governor, and council, and make laws for its settlers. 
The company promptly sent out a fleet of colonists to Salem. With the 
arrival of this fleet, Salem immediately attained to a larger size than the 
decade-old Plymouth Colony (by 1630 the Massachusetts Bay colony 
totaled a little over five hundred people). 

Massachusetts Bay Company and colony, however, developed far more 
rapidly than their founders had foreseen, thanks to the unexpectedly over- 
whelming interest in emigration among the Puritans of East Anglia. The 
East Anglians were the most numerous and most extreme of the English 
Puritans, reaching virtually the point of Separatism from the Church of 
England. As dedicated Puritans, the East Anglians had been embittered by 
Archbishop Laud's anti-Puritan movement within the Church of England, 
and by a widespread growth of a liberal Dutch theology in the universities 
and among the upper classes, a theology stressing free will and religious 
toleration. Such doctrines were highly suspect to the Calvinist Puritans 
bent upon predestination and extirpation of heresy. For a long while, 
however, the East Anglians had been indifferent to the emigration move- 
ment, for East Anglia had not been as widely hit by the depression of 
the 1620s as had the West Country and other manufacturing centers in 
England. The reason for the relative prosperity was that East Anglia was 


the center for the production of the lighter new draperies, which had not 
been crippled by taxation, monopoly privilege, or stringent state regula- 
tion. However, the wars with France and Spain interrupted the markets 
for East Anglian textiles while moving the state, in its frantic search for 
revenue, to bring taxes and controls upon the new-drapery industry. 
Production of new draperies in East Anglia dropped by a startling two- 
thirds between 1628 and 1631, and tens of thousands of spinners and 
weavers were thrown out of work, increasing the poor-tax burdens upon 
the country farmers and gentry. Riots and disorders by the workmen 
made things still worse; they led the government to impose further taxes 
and minimum-wage rates upon the manufacturers, to force merchants 
to buy textiles, and to prohibit export competition with the monopoly 
companies. With sudden economic distress and injustice added to un- 
welcome political and religious trends, the Puritans of East Anglia were 
now ripe for mass emigration. 

A decisive conference of Puritans took place at the Puritans' intel- 
lectual center, Cambridge University, at the end of August 1629. In the 
Cambridge Agreement, a group of Puritan leaders from East Anglia 
agreed to join the Massachusetts Bay Company and to immigrate to 
America if the officers were to be chosen solely from immigrants to 
New England, and if the company charter were to be carried with them to 
the New World. Moreover, the Puritan stockholders remaining in England 
agreed to sell all their shares in the company to the emigrants; the Massa- 
chusetts Bay Company could now be completely located in New England as 
a self-governing Puritan colony. This was a legal action, because the 
Puritans had cleverly persuaded the king not to specify the location of 
the company in the charter. John Winthrop, a leading East Anglian attor- 
ney was appointed governor of the company and John Humphrey, 
brother-in-law of the highly influential Earl of Lincoln, deputy governor. 
When Humphrey decided to remain in England, he was replaced by 
Thomas Dudley, the steward of the Earl of Lincoln. Although the Rev. 
John White did send some West Country Puritans to Salem during 1630, 
the vast bulk of the great Puritan exodus of the 1630s — the Great Migration 
— came from East Anglia.* The Great Migration of Puritans began im- 
mediately, and seventeen ships sailed from England in 1630 alone. They 
settled not only in Salem, but all along the Massachusetts coast, founding 
such towns as Watertown, Roxbury, Dorchester, Medford, and Newtown 
(later Cambridge). During the 1630s, from 20,000 to 25,000 people im- 
migrated to Massachusetts; by 1640, 9,000 remained (deducting emigra- 
tion from Massachusetts back home or to other lands), while only 1,000 
people lived in Plymouth. 

Thus, by 1630 the two New England colonies, Plymouth and Massa- 

*It must be noted that by no means all of the great wave of Puritan emigrants from East 
Anglia in the 1630s chose to go to Massachusetts Bay. A greater number moved to Barbados, 
other West Indian islands, and Ireland. 


chusetts Bay, had managed to win for themselves virtual self-governing 
status, independent of English control. Like Virginia, the New England 
colonies began as chartered companies. But the Virginia Company con- 
tinued to rule the colony from England, being finally expropriated and 
superseded by the Crown in 1620. The New England settlements, in 
contrast, were strongly impelled by religious motives. Hence, the Plymouth 
Pilgrims and Separatists were only loosely controlled by the parent 
company, and soon bought out that company completely, while the Puritan 
Massachusetts Bay Company transferred itself to, and completely blended 
with, the colony in America. 

According to the Massachusetts Bay charter, the governor, deputy 
governor, and Council of Assistants were to be elected by the whole body 
of stockholders or "freemen." This sounds highly democratic on paper, 
but the stumblingblock was that only twelve stockholders migrated to 
America, and all were officers of the colony. Since any new freemen had 
to be selected by the existing freemen, the natural tendency was to per- 
petuate a closed oligarchy and to select few new members. Rumblings of 
popular resistance occurred as early as the fall of 1630, when 109 settlers 
petitioned to be made freemen of the company. The freemen gave in to 
this request, but completely vitiated its effect by mendaciously claiming 
that the charter had put all power into the hands of the Council of Assis- 
tants, who could choose the governor and deputy governor and make all 
the laws. Moreover, the assistants were to hold office permanently, on 
good behavior. The only function of the body of freemen, it was alleged, 
was filling vacancies in the council. By thus failing to show the freemen 
the text of the charter, a dozen Puritan oligarchs managed to keep absolute 
control of the colony's affairs for great lengths of time. In addition, though 
in violation of the charter, only Puritans were admitted to the body of 
freemen, thus insuring domination of the churches and the broad body 
politic by the church elders. 

From the beginning, the authorities had trouble from the newly bur- 
geoning smaller towns. At the beginning of 1631, a tax of sixty pounds 
was levied upon each settlement, to pay for frontier forts at Newtown. 
The inhabitants of Watertown promptly refused to pay the tax, assessed 
by the Council of Assistants, on the great old English ground that no com- 
munity may be taxed without its own consent. As the Watertown protesters 
eloquently declared: "It was not safe to pay moneys after that sort, for 
fear of bringing themselves and posterity into bondage." Here was the 
first tax strike in America, long anticipating the episode in Surry, Virginia. 
In 1632 the government bowed to the strike — after an apology was ex- 
tracted from the resisters and the freemen assumed the power to elect 
the governor and the assistants (though the governor had to be chosen 
from the ranks of the assistants), and also to make tax levies. Or rather, 
this power was assumed by the representatives of the freemen — direct 
democracy now being held impractical in the large colony — and two 


deputies were elected from each town in Massachusetts. For over a decade, 
the deputies and the assistants sat in the same house of the legislature 
(the General Court), but then separated into two houses of that court. 

During the following year, political conflicts intensifed in the colony as 
opinion polarized two camps: Thomas Dudley, backed by the elders, 
accused Governor Winthrop of "leniency," and of being negligent in 
instituting the absolute and complete "tyranny of the Lord-Brethren." 
Dudley called, characteristically, for "heavier fines, severer whippings, 
more frequent banishments." On the other hand, many of the freemen 
continued to grow restive at the oligarchical rule, and the leading Puritan 
divine, Rev. Thomas Hooker, arrived in Massachusetts to stand aghast 
and protest at the tyranny of the colony's magistrates. 

The struggle came to a head in 1634 A paper by Israel Stoughton 
denounced the government oligarchy for monopolizing power: "They 
made the laws, disposed lands, raised monies, punished offenders, etc. 
at their discretion; neither did the people know the portent. . . ." The 
magistrates responded by burning the paper, but the argument would not 
thus be stifled. Finally a committee from each of the eight towns in Massa- 
chusetts Bay sent representatives to insist on the opening of the hitherto 
secret charter for the colony. When they then discovered that the lawmaking 
power was fully and legally vested in the freemen rather than in the 
assistants, the General Court from then on assumed full jurisdiction for 
the making of laws. The magistrates made sure, however, that not the 
total body of freemen, but the more malleable deputies in the General 
Court were actually to make the laws. 

For a while, the General Court — especially the deputies in the lower 
house — was furious at the lengthy betrayal, and, led by Israel Stoughton 
as speaker of the deputies, it deposed Winthrop as governor and levied 
fines on some of the assistants. But the number of freemen was still 
restricted to Puritan church members by an act of 1631, and a law five 
years later prohibited any new churches from existing in the colony 
without securing the consent of the authorities. The loosening of the 
oligarchic rule in Massachusetts was therefore not very great. Indeed, 
Dudley, who had replaced Winthrop as governor, quickly prohibited 
Stoughton from any public office for a three-year period. Soon the General 
Court was all too happy to return Winthrop to office and depose Dudley. 

A threat of English overlordship vanished in 1635 upon the dissolution 
of the Council for New England. The Council had failed financially; its 
doom had been assured when its fishing monopoly off the English coast 
was disallowed by the Crown. Sir Ferdinando Gorges and his associates 
still tried to menace the colony by proposing that the territory of New 
England be parceled out to individual proprietors in the Council. Gorges 
also tried his best to have the Massachusetts charter revoked. 

The Crown, indeed, was thinking along similar lines. England was 
getting very worried about the virtual independence of Massachusetts 


Bay. In 1634 the lords commissioners for Foreign Plantations in General, 
as Privy Council committee under the chairmanship of the formidable 
Archbishop Laud, moved firmly against the colony. Authorized to 
control the colonies as well as emigration, the commission moved, in the 
spring of 1635, to revoke the charter of the Massachusetts Bay Company 
in the courts. The English courts severely rebuked the officer of the Massa- 
chusetts colony for not appearing at the trial, and decided to revoke the 
colony's charter in 1637. Massachusetts prepared to arm to repel an 
English attack, but it was saved from such a confrontation by the begin- 
nings of the Puritan Revolution the following year, a revolution that hope- 
lessly distracted the English government from Massachusetts affairs for 
fully a generation. 



The Puritans "Purify": 
Theocracy in Massachusetts 

The Puritans had no sooner landed in the New World than they began 
coercively to "purify" their surroundings. As early as John Endecott's 
arrival in Salem, the Puritans had surprisingly shifted from their loyal 
opposition within the Anglican church and had severed themselves from 
the Anglican communion. In this way, they became to a large extent as 
Separatist as the Plymouth Pilgrims they had previously despised. This 
act of separation was accomplished in 1629, with Francis Higginson and 
Samuel Skelton as the guiding ministers. Two Puritan members of the 
Council, John and Samuel Browne, balked at this radical departure from 
Puritan beliefs, and moved to form an Anglican church of their own. This 
prompted the government to move quickly, in the first act of "purifying" 
the colony's spiritual atmosphere. Governor Endecott protested that the 
Brownes' speeches and activities were "tending to mutiny and faction," 
and promptly deported them to England — thus serving notice that any 
Anglican worship in Massachusetts would be speedily prosecuted. 

The Puritans also proceeded to the final destruction of Thomas Morton's 
ill-starred Merrymount colony. For Morton, in 1629, had indeed reestab- 
lished his colony of the interracial frolic, the Anglican maypole, and brisk 
and efficient trade in Indian furs that competed with Massachusetts Bay. 
Massachusetts offered to share the Bay Company's fur trading monopoly 
with Morton, but the highly efficient Morton refused to do so, judging that 
he could easily outcompete the Massachusetts monopoly. This he did, far 
outstripping Massachusetts in the fur trade by over six to one. This the 
colony could not tolerate, and Captain Littleworth was sent to Merry- 
mount with an armed troop. Littleworth cut down the maypole, burned 


Morton's house and confiscated his property, and proceeded to destroy 
the settlement, Morton was charged by the authorities with "alienating" 
the Indians — the reverse of the fact — and was again deported to England. 

Back in England, the embittered Morton protested his persecution and 
worked for Gorges in trying to void the Plymouth and Massachusetts 
patents, but to no avail. Years later, returning to Massachusetts, the 
poverty-stricken Morton was heavily fined, was imprisoned for a year by 
the authorities, and died in Maine shortly after his release. 

The Massachusetts colony was organized in towns. The church con- 
gregation of each town selected its minister. Unlike the thinly populated, 
extensive settlement of Virginia, the clustering in towns was ideal for 
having the minister and his aides keep watch on all the inhabitants. 
Although the congregation selected the minister, the town government 
paid his salary; in contrast to the poorly paid clergy of the Southern 
colonies, the salary was handsome indeed. Out of it the minister could 
maintain several slaves or indentured servants and amass a valuable 
library. The minister — himself a government official — exerted enormous 
political influence in the community, and only someone whom he certified 
as "godly" was likely to gain elected office. The congregation was ruled, 
not democratically by the members, but rather by its council of elders. 
Also highly important was the minister who functioned as "church 
teacher," specializing in doctrinal matters. 

Since only church members could vote in political elections, the require- 
ments for admission became a matter of concern for every inhabitant. 
These requirements were rigorous. For one thing, the candidate had to 
satisfy the minister and elders of his complete adherence to pure doctrine 
and of his satisfactory personal conduct. And, once admitted, he was 
always subject to expulsion for deviations in either area. 

As the years wore on, the rule of the oligarchy tended to tighten and 
polarize further, so that a lower proportion of the colony was admitted to 
church membership. The Puritan leaders made strenuous efforts to 
exclude the "unsanctified" from the colony. Thus, in 1636 the town of 
Boston outlawed any person's entertaining strangers for more than two 
weeks, without obtaining permission from the town government. Salem 
went one better by hiring an inspector "to go from house to house . . . once 
a month to inquire what strangers . . . have thrust themselves into the 
town." To quicken his incentive for snooping, he was rewarded with the 
fines levied against those whose crime in entertaining "strangers" he had 
uncovered. In 1637 the Massachusetts government imposed this out- 
lawing of hospitality on all towns, and it was now illegal for any town to 
permit a stranger to move there without the consent of high government 
officials. As the years went on, however, and the colony grew, the author- 
ities were forced by the need for labor to admit servants, apprentices, 
sailors, and artisans, who did not necessarily belong to the body of Puritan 


To the saints and their leaders, any idea of separation of church and 
state was anathema. As the Puritan synod put it in their Platform of 
Church Discipline (1648): "It is the duty of the magistrate to take care of 
matters of religion. . . . The end of the magistrate's office is . . . godliness." 
It is the duty of the magistrate to punish and repress "idolatry, blasphemy, 
heresy, venting corrupt and pernicious opinions , . . open contempt of the 
word preached, profanation of the Lord's Day. . . ." Should any congrega- 
tion dare to "grow schismatical" or "walk incorrigibly or obstinately in 
any corrupt way of their own," the magistrate was to "put forth his 
coercive power." And if the state was to be the strong coercive arm of 
the church, so the church, in turn, was to foster in the public the duty of 
obedience to the state rulers: "Church government furthereth the people 
in yielding more hearty . . . obedience unto the civil government." From 
this attitude, it followed for the Puritan that any rebel against the civil 
government was a "rebel and traitor" to God, and of course any criticism 
of, let alone rebellion against, Puritan rule was also a sin against God, 
the author of the plan for Puritan hegemony. So insistent indeed were the 
Puritans on the duty of obedience to civil government that the content 
of its decrees became almost irrelevant. As Rev. John Davenport, a leading 
Puritan divine, put it: "You must submit to the rulers' authority, and 
perform all duties to them whom you have chosen . . . whether they be 
good or bad, by virtue of their relation between them and you." Naturally, 
John Winthrop, who helped govern Massachusetts for twenty years after 
its inception, agreed with this sentiment. To Winthrop, natural liberty was 
a "wild beast," while correct civil liberty meant being properly subjected 
to authority and restrained by "God's ordinances." 

Perhaps the bluntest expression of the Puritan ideal of theocracy was 
the Rev. Nathaniel Ward's The Simple Cobbler of Aggawam in America 
(1647). Returning to England to take part in the Puritan ferment there, 
this Massachusetts divine was horrified to find the English Puritans too 
soft and tolerant, too willing to allow a diversity of opinion in society. 
The objective of both church and state, Ward declaimed, was to coerce 
virtue, to "preserve unity of spirit, faith and ordinances, to be all like- 
minded, of one accord; every man to take his brother into his Christian 
care . . . and by no means to permit heresies or erroneous opinions." Ward 

God does nowhere in His word tolerate Christian States to give toleration to 
such adversaries of His truth, if they have power in their hands to suppress 
them ... He that willingly assents to toleration of varieties of religion . . . 
his conscience will tell him he is either an atheist or a heretic or a hypocrite, 
or at best captive to some lust. Poly-piety is the greatest impiety in the world. 
... To authorize an untruth by a toleration of State is to build a sconce against 
the walls of heaven, to batter God out of His chair. 

And so the Puritan ministry stood at the apex of rule in Massachusetts, ever 


ready to use the secular arm to enforce its beliefs against critics and 
false prophets, or even against simple lapses from conformity. 

To enforce purity of doctrine upon society, the Puritans needed a 
network of schools throughout the colony to indoctrinate the younger 
generation. The Southern colonies' individualistic attitude toward 
education was not to be tolerated. Also, the clusters of town settlements 
made schools far more feasible than it did among the widely scattered 
rural population of the Southern colonies. The first task was a college, to 
graduate suitably rigorous ministers, and to train schoolmasters for lower 
schools- And so the Massachusetts General Court established a college in 
Cambridge in 1636 (named Harvard College the following year), appro- 
priating 400 pounds for its support. In a few years, after schoolmasters had 
been trained, a network of grammar schools was established throughout 
the colony. In 1647, the government required every town to create and 
keep in operation a grammar school. Thus, Massachusetts forged a net- 
work of governmental schools to indoctrinate the younger generation in 
Puritan orthodoxy. The master was chosen, and his salary paid, by the 
town government, and, of course, crucial to selecting a master was the 
minister's intensive inquiry into his doctrinal and behavioral purity. Indeed, 
in 1654 Massachusetts made it illegal for any town to continue in their 
posts any teachers "that have manifested themselves unsound in the 
faith or scandalous in their lives." To feed the network of grammar schools, 
the colony, in 1645, compelled each town to provide a schoolmaster to 
teach reading and writing. 

There would be no point to government schools for indoctrinating the 
masses, if there were no masses to be indoctrinated. Vital to the system, 
therefore, was a law compelling every child in the colony to be educated. 
This was put through in 1642 — the first compulsory education law in 
America — and was in contrast to the system of voluntary education then 
prevailing in England and in the Southern colonies. Parents ignoring the 
law were fined, and wherever government officials judged the parents or 
guardians to be unfit to have the children educated properly, the govern- 
ment was empowered to seize the children and apprentice them out to 

One of the essential goals of Puritan rule was strict and rigorous enforce- 
ment of the ascetic Puritan conception of moral behavior. But since men's 
actions, given freedom to express their choices, are determined by their 
inner convictions and values, compulsory moral rules only serve to manu- 
facture hypocrites and not to advance genuine morality. Coercion only 
forces people to change their actions; it does not persuade people to change 
their underlying values and convictions. And since those already con- 
vinced of the moral rules would abide by them without coercion, the only 
real impact of compulsory morality is to engender hypocrites, those whose 
actions no longer reflect their inner convictions. The Puritans, however, 


did not boggle at this consequence, A leading Puritan divine, the Rev. 
John Cotton, went so far as to maintain that hypocrites who merely 
conform to the church rules without inner conviction could still be useful 
church members. As to the production of hypocrites, Cotton complacently 
declared: 'If it did so, yet better to be hypocrites than profane persons. 
Hypocrites give God part of his due, the outward man, but the profane 
persons giveth God neither outward nor inward man." 

One requisite for the efficient enforcement of any code of behavior is 
always an effective espionage apparatus of informers. This apparatus was 
supplied in Massachusetts, informally but no less effectively, by the 
dedicated snooping of friends and neighbors upon one another, with de- 
tailed reports sent to the minister on all deviations, including the sin of 
idleness. The clustering of towns around central villages aided the network, 
and the fund of personal information collected by each minister added to 
his great political power. Moreover, the menace of excommunication was 
redoubled by the threat of corollary secular punishment. 

Informal snooping, however, was felt by some of the towns to be too 
haphazard, and these set up a regular snooping officialdom. These officers 
were called "tithing men," as each one had supervision over the private 
affairs of his ten nearest neighbors. 

One Puritan moral imperative was strict observance of the Sabbath: 
any worldly pleasures indulged in on the Sabbath were a grave offense 
against both church and state. The General Court was shocked to learn, in 
the late 1650s, that some people, residents as well as strangers, persisted 
in "uncivilly walking in the streets and fields" on Sunday, and even 
"travelling from town to town" and drinking at inns. And so the General 
Court duly passed a law prohibiting the crimes of "playing, uncivil walking, 
drinking and travelling from town to town" on Sunday, If these criminals 
could not pay the fine imposed, they were to be whipped by the constable 
at a maximum rate of five lashes per ten-shilling fine. To enforce the 
regulations and prevent the crimes, the gates of the towns were closed 
on Sunday and no one permitted to leave. And if two or more people met 
accidentally on the street on a Sunday, they were quickly dispersed by 
the police. Nor was the Sabbath in any sense a hasty period. Under the 
inspiration of the Rev. John Cotton, the New England Sabbath began 
rigorously at sunset Saturday evening and continued through Sunday 
night, thus ensuring that no part of the weekend could be spent in 
enjoyment. Indeed, enjoyment at any time, while not legally prohibited, 
was definitely frowned upon, levity being condemned as "inconsistent 
with the gravity to be always preserved by a serious Christian." 

Kissing one's wife in public on a Sunday was also outlawed, A sea 
captain, returning home on a Sunday morning from a three-year voyage, 
was indiscreet enough to kiss his wife on the doorstep. For this he was 
forced to sit in the stocks for two hours for this "lewd and unseemly 
behavior on the Sabbath Day." 


Not only were nonreligious activities outlawed on Sundays, but at- 
tendance at a Puritan church was compulsory as well. Fines were levied 
for absence from church, and the police were ordered to search through 
the towns for absentees and forcibly haul them to church. Falling asleep 
in church was also outlawed and whipping was the punishment for repeated 

Gambling of any kind was strictly forbidden. The law declared: "Nor 
shall any person at any time play or game for any money . . . upon penalty 
of forfeiting treble the value thereof, one half to the party informing and 
the other half to the treasury!" Yet, as so often happens in this world, what 
was so sternly prohibited to private individuals was permitted to govern- 
ment. Thus, government was permitted to raise revenue for itself by 
running lotteries. To government, in short, was given the compulsory 
monopoly of the gambling and lottery business. Cards and dice were, of 
course, prohibited as gambling. Also prohibited, however, were games of 
skill at public houses, such as bowling and shuffleboard, such activities 
being considered a waste of time by the people's self-appointed moral 
guardians in the government. 

Idleness, in fact, was not just a sin, but also a punishable misdemeanor— 
at any time, not only on Sunday. If the constable discovered anyone, singly 
or in groups, engaged in such heinous behavior as coasting on the ice, 
swimming, or sneaking a quiet smoke, he was ordered to report to the 
magistrate. Time, it seems, was God's gift and therefore always to be used 
in His service. A sin against God's time was a crime against the church 
and state. 

Drinking, oddly enough, was not completely outlawed, but drunkenness 
was, and subject to a fine. The practice of drinking toasts was outlawed in 
1639, because of its supposedly pagan origin and because, once a man 
has begun to drink a toast, he is on the road to perdition; "drunkenness, 
uncleanness, and other sins quickly follow." And yet the stern guardians of 
the public morality had their troubles, for decades later we find ministerial 
complaints that the "heathenish and idolatrous practice of health-drinking 
is too frequent." 

Women and children, as might be expected, were treated extremely 
harshly by the Puritan commonwealth. Children were regarded as the 
virtually absolute property of their parents, and this property claim was 
rigorously enforced by the state. If any child be disobedient to his parents, 
any magistrate could haul him into court, and punish the little criminal 
with a maximun of ten lashes for each offense. Should the pattern of 
disobedience persist into adolescence, the parents, as provided by the law 
of 1646, were supposed to bring the youth to the magistrate. If convicted 
of the high crime of stubbornness and rebelliousness, the son was to be 
duly executed. Happily, it is likely that this particular law, on the books for 
over thirty years, was rarely, if ever, put into effect by the parents. 

Women were viewed as instruments of Satan by the Puritans, and 


severe laws were passed outlawing women's apparel that was either 
immodest or so showy as to indicate the sin of "pride of raiment." "Im- 
modesty" included the wearing of short-sleeved dresses, "whereby the 
nakedness of the arm may be discovered" — a practice duly outlawed in 

In outlawing "pride of raiment," women were not discriminated 
against by the Puritans; men too felt the heavy arm of the state. In 1634 the 
General Court began the practice of outlawing finery of dress for either sex, 
including "immodest fashions . . . with any lace on it, silver, gold or thread," 
hat bands, belts, ruffs, beaver hats, and many other items of adornment. 
In 1639 more items of sin were added: for example, ribbons, shoulder 
bands, and cuffs — these nonutilitarian items being of "little use or benefit, 
but to the nourishment of pride." Excessive finery was subject to heavy 
fines, and the law was extensively enforced. Thus, in one year, Hampshire 
County hauled thirty-eight women and thirty men into court for illegal 
finery, silk being an especially popular sin. One woman was punished 
"for wearing silk in a flaunting garb, to the great offense of several sober 

Even the wearing of one's hair long — an old Cavalier practice condemned 
by the Puritans, who were therefore called Roundheads — was placed under 
interdict. The General Court repeatedly condemned flowing hair as 
dangerous vanity. Many Puritan divines ranked "pride in long hair" fully 
as sinful as gambling, drinking, or idleness. One citizen, fined for daring to 
build upon unused government land, was offered a remission of half the 
amount if he would only "cut off the long hair off his head into a civil frame." 
Hair righteousness, however, never had much of a chance even in godly 
Massachusetts, for some of the major leaders of the colony, including 
Governor Winthrop and John Endecott, persisted in the sin of long hair. 

Mixed dancing only came to the colony late in the century, but was 
promptly condemned as frivolous, immoral and a waste of time. Boston, 
upon hearing complaints, closed down a dancing school. 

The measures of the fanatical Puritan theocracy were not solely 
motivated by religious zeal. Part of the motivation had an economic-class 
basis. As the century progressed, the lowly laborers and indentured servants 
formed an increasing minority of the populace; since they were not ad- 
mitted to the political and social privileges of church membership, they 
were naturally the most disaffected members of the social body. The above 
measures were partly designed to keep the lower classes in their place. 
Thus, the authorities were particularly angered to see servants or the 
families of laborers having the gall to wear fine apparel. The General 
Court, in 1658, severely announced "our utter detestation . . . that men or 
women of mean condition should take upon them the garb of gentlemen, 
by wearing gold or silk lace, or buttons or silk of taffeta hoods, or scarves, 
which though allowable to persons of greater estates or more liberal 


education, yet we cannot but judge intolerable in persons of such like con- 
dition/' In short, the lower orders must know their place, and the stringent 
requirements of a fanatical moral code could bend for the upper strata of 

Similarly, the requirement of compulsory education was enforced par- 
ticularly upon the indentured servants, as many masters believed that their 
servants would be less inclined to be independent or "give trouble" if 
imbued with Puritan teachings. 

Indeed, the leaders of the colony did not hesitate to justify the oligarchic 
rule by the rich over the poor. As Governor Winthrop expressed it in his 
A Model of Christian Charity (1630): "God Almighty in His most holy 
and wise providence hath so disposed of the condition of mankind as in 
all times some must be rich, some poor; some high and eminent in 
power and dignity; others mean and in subjection." 

Generally, then, it was the lower orders who had to bear the main brunt 
of the severely enforced "moral" rules of the Puritan code. Indeed, Massa- 
chusetts imposed maximum ceilings on wage rates in order to lower wage 
costs to employers. The temporarily enslaved indentured servants were 
particularly oppressed by Puritans trying to maintain them as the efficient 
property of their masters; they therefore tried to suppress all deviant 
tendencies from the norm.* Many servants were branded like cattle with 
their initials and the date of purchase, so as to assure their rapid identi- 
fication in case of flight. When found unsatisfactory or troublesome, ser- 
vants were generally punished, whipped, and imprisoned, or had their 
tenure of servitude extended. Orphan boys were bound out as servants by 
the state until they reached the age of twenty, while illegitimate boys 
were especially punished by being bound out until the age of thirty. In 
addition, indentured servants could, like slaves, be sold by their masters to 
other masters, and thus be forcibly separated from their families. Servants 
caught escaping were often punished by having their ears cut off. 

*The sources of servants in Massachusetts and the other Northern colonies were the same 
as those of the servants coming to Virginia, as described above. 



Suppressing Heresy: The Flight of 
Roger Williams 

"The Puritans in leaving England," the historian Thomas Jefferson 
Wertenbaker wrote, "fled not so much from persecution as from error." 
It was to build a rigorous theocracy free from dissent that the Puritans 
built a colony in America. And yet a Protestant theocracy must always 
suffer from a grave inner contradiction: for one significant tenet of 
Protestantism is the individual's ability to interpret the Bible free of 
ecclesiastical dictates. Although particular Protestant creeds may have no 
intention of countenancing or permitting dissent, the Protestant stimulus 
to individual interpretation must inevitably provoke that very dissent. 

If the Puritans were so rigorous in suppressing idleness and frivolity 
on the Sabbath, we can imagine their zeal in rooting out heresy. As the 
Reverend Urian Oakes put it: "The Loud outcry of some is for liberty of 
conscience ... I look upon an unbounded toleration as the first born of all 
abominations." And the Rev. Thomas Shepard echoed that " 'tis Satan's 
policy, to plead for an indefinite and boundless toleration." The eminent 
Puritan divine John Norton, in The Heart of New England Rent, thundered 
against liberty: "We both dread and bear witness against liberty of heresy. 
... It is a liberty ... to answer to the dictate of error of conscience in 
walking contrary to rule. It is a liberty to blaspheme, a liberty to seduce 
others from the true God, a liberty to tell lies in the name of the Lord." As 
for liberty of conscience, Norton speciously claimed to be upholding it, but 
not the "liberty of the error of conscience"; in short, people were to be 
"free" to believe what Norton wanted them to, but were not to be free 
to differ. As early as 1631 the Puritan authorities revealed their position on 
heresy. In that year Phillip Ratcliffe was whipped, fined forty shillings, 


had his ears cut off, and was banished for the high crime of "uttering 
malicious and scandalous speeches against the government and the Church." 

The first important case of heresy also came soon after the founding of 
the colony. To Massachusetts in early 1631 came the young Rev. Roger 
Williams, who quickly refused the coveted appointment of teacher of 
the Boston church. An individualist and a fearless logician, Williams had 
concluded that the Puritan church in Massachusetts, being Separatist 
de facto, should also be Separatist de jure: that is, should break openly from 
communion with the Church of England. In short, he pursued the Puritans' 
logic further than they were willing to go, and thus embarrassed the 
Puritans a great deal. Beginning with this dissent, Williams quickly went 
on to strike hammer blows against the entire political structure of the 
colony. First he proceeded to deny the right of the civil authority to punish 
the infraction of religious rule or doctrine. This struck at the entire theo- 
cratic principle, and the General Court of Massachusetts declared in reply 
that it was clearly absurd to maintain that "a Church might run into heresy 
. . . and yet the civil magistrate could not intermeddle." To the Puritans this 
was clearly a puzzling and astonishing doctrine. 

Williams now accepted appointment as teacher of the Salem church, but 
his appointment was overruled by the General Court on account of Williams' 
Separatist views and his dedication to religious liberty. Williams thereupon 
moved to the fully Separatist Plymouth, where he became assistant to the 
Reverend Ralph Smith, who had also been ejected from Salem for his pure 
Separatist views. But Plymouth itself was becoming less Separatist, and 
could not tolerate Williams' libertarianism. As a result, Williams accepted in 
late 1633 a second call from Salem to be a teacher of the church. There he 
joined the senior pastor, Samuel Skelton, in attacking the growing practice 
of ministers in holding periodical joint discussions — a practice which they 
perceptively feared would grow into a form of snyodal quasi-Presbyterian 
control over the individual congregations. Only four years later, Skelton and 
Williams were proved right by the erection of a system of synods, which also 
resulted in joint ministerial advice to the civil power. 

Williams proceeded to strike another fundamental blow at the social 
structure of Massachusetts Bay. He denied the right of the king to make 
arbitrary grants of the land of Massachusetts to the colonists. The Indians, 
he maintained, properly owned the land and therefore the settlers should 
purchase the land from them. This doctrine attacked the entire quasi- 
feudal origin of American colonization in arbitrary land grants in the royal 
charters, and it also hit at the policy of ruthlessly expelling the Indians from 
their land. Williams, indeed, was the rare white colonist courageous 
enough to say that full title to the soil rested in the Indian natives, and that 
white title could only be validly obtained by purchase from its true owners. 
The whites, charged Williams, lived "under a sin of usurpation of others' 
possessions/' The denial of the king's right to grant title to land he did not 
justly own, of course, hit directly at the basis of the Massachusetts charter 


itself, which, Williams argued, the colonists had a moral duty to turn from 
and renounce. 

The infuriated authorities now moved in on Williams, charging him 
with subversive doctrine. Bowing to force majeure, Williams recanted 
and offered to burn the tract expressing his dissenting views. 

But Williams was too much a man of principle to be suppressed for long, 
and by late 1634 news reached Boston that Williams was repeating his 
old subversive doctrines as well as adding the purist religious deviation 
from Puritan orthodoxy that oaths should not be administered by magis- 
trates to unregenerate sinners. Williams also denounced the loyalty oaths 
coerced upon the mass of nonfreemen residents of the colony, in April 
1634, as blasphemous; he refused to subscribe to the oath and urged his 
congregation to do the same. Williams did this despite the punishment 
for refusal having been announced as banishment from the colony. 

A crackdown by the Massachusetts authorities was precipitated by 
Salem church's appointing Williams as its chief minister in place of the 
deceased Skelton. The Massachusetts authorities now unanimously con- 
demned Williams' views as "erroneous and very dangerous" and denounced 
Salem's action as "a great contempt of authority." The Massachusetts 
clergy recommended to the General Court that this dangerous advocate of 
religious liberty "be removed." Hauled into General Court in July 1635, 
Williams now remained adamant, even after several confrontations with 
church authorities. 

The General Court now openly moved to undermine Williams with his 
home base at Salem, punishing that town by refusing to grant it title to 
land that it claimed at Marblehead Neck. Salem church struck back with an 
indignation meeting, which sent letters to the congregations of the other 
churches of the colony, urging them to "admonish" the magistrates and 
deputies for their "heinous sin." The elders of the other churches made 
certain to suppress any potential upsurge of popular sympathy for Williams 
and Salem by not reading the letters to their congregations. Williams con- 
tinued to strike hard, denouncing the oligarchy of elders for keeping infor- 
mation from the body of church menbers. 

As the fierce conflict continued, Williams' fearless spirit, the logic of 
Protestantism, and the dynamics of the conflict itself drove Roger Williams 
to the ultimate conclusion of Separatism: calling upon Salem church to 
separate clearly from the other churches of the colony, as well as from the 
Church of England. This was the straw that broke the Massachusetts 
camel's back. The Puritan oligarchy now brandished its temporal sword, 
sending to Salem its Model of Church and Civil Power. The Model gave 
grave warning that the civil magistrates would strike down any "corrupt" 
or schismatic church. Independent churches would be suppressed; religious 
toleration could only end by dissolving the state as well as the church. 

In September the civil power followed this by subduing Salem: the 
General Court expelled the Salem deputies and reiterated its refusal to 


grant the town's land claims. The assistant ruling Salem, John Endecott, 
defended the Salem church but was promptly imprisoned until he recanted 
and was discharged. Under the severest pressure by the Puritan oligarchy, 
the majority of Salem church, as Williams was later to write, "was 
swayed and bowed (whether for fear of persecution or otherwise) to say 
and practice what, to my knowledge . . . many of them mourned under." 

With Salem brought to heel, it now remained only to suppress the iso- 
lated Roger Williams himself. Yet, when brought again into General 
Court in October 1635, Williams stoutly maintained all of his heretical and 
libertarian opinions. He refused to recant even when forced to debate with 
the Rev. Thomas Hooker, a leading Puritan divine. Thereupon the General 
Court ordered Williams expelled from the colony within six weeks. The 
sentence of banishment declared: 

Whereas Mr. Roger Williams . . . hath broached and divulged divers new and 
dangerous opinions, against the authority of magistrates, has also written 
letters of defamation, both of the magistrates and churches here . . . and yet 
maintaineth the same without retraction, it is therefore ordered that the said Mr. 
Williams shall depart out of this jurisdiction. 

The court agreed to extend the deadline for Williams' banishment pro- 
vided that he would not "go about to draw others to his opinions." But the 
authorities were chagrined to find that even Williams in private was 
having a subversive effect. While Salem bowed reluctantly to the decision 
of the authorities — and received the Marblehead land in return — Williams 
himself separated from the Salem church, and others were moved to do 
the same. 

Over twenty Salem families now prepared to follow Williams south- 
ward into exile and there build a haven of religious liberty. With the disap- 
pearance of the Council for New England in 1635, Massachusetts Bay and 
Plymouth were both virtually self-governing, and what is more, the land 
south of the Massachusetts grant and west of Plymouth became a tempting 
vacuum, not having been parceled out to any person or group. It was in this 
free area that Williams now prepared to found a new colony. 

The Massachusetts authorities were greatly dismayed, because they 
had expected that Williams would be forced back to England. It was not 
enough to oust Williams forcibly from the land area assigned to Massa- 
chusetts; should he merely move southward, there would still be a danger 
that, in the words of Governor John Winthrop, "the infection would eas- 
ily spread" to Massachusetts Bay. The General Court hastily sent a ship to 
Salem to arrest Williams and send him speedily back to England. But Wil- 
liams bested his persecutors and fled alone into the wilderness. He trudged 
south through the snow and spent the winter among the friendly Narragan- 
sett Indians. 

In the spring Williams was joined by four friends, and they proceeded to 
the northern tip of Narragansett Bay, where they founded the settlement 


of Seekonk. There they were soon joined by several more families from 
Salem. The great southward flight from Massachusetts had begun. 

Williams' travail had scarcely ended, however. Soon the governor of 
Plymouth Colony wrote to Williams regretfully advising him that Seekonk 
was still inside the Plymouth boundaries, and that Plymouth could not dare 
displease Massachusetts by allowing the little band to remain. So Wil- 
liams was now banished from Plymouth as well; and the purchase of the 
Seekonk land from the Indians, the clearing of land, and the planting of 
crops had all been in vain. 

Moving west across the Seekonk River, Williams left the jurisdiction 
of Plymouth and founded the settlement of Providence. In Providence 
Plantations, Williams and the others scrupulously purchased the land from 
the Indians, and determined to allow religious liberty in their new and 
spontaneously formed colony. 

How Roger Williams was regarded by the frightened Puritan oligarchs 
of Massachusetts Bay may be seen from the historical account of the Rev. 
Cotton Mather, one of the main leaders of the later generation of Puritan 
divines: "There was a whole country in America like to be set on fire by the 
rapid motion of a windmill in the head of one particular man, Roger 
Williams." And Mather realized that Williams' doctrines were aimed at 
"the whole political, as well as the ecclesiastical, constitution of the 
country." The reaction of the Massachusetts authorities to Williams' 
flight was to step up their persecution of Salem Separatism. All meetings 
of Separatists were now outlawed. 

Williams' views, at least in these early days of his career, were notably 
libertarian, especially in contrast to those of other Americans of his time. 
But it must be recognized that Williams emerged as an embattled leader 
within the context of a Puritan and Dissenter movement in England, 
which in the 1630s and 1640s was rapidly becoming radicalized and in- 
creasingly libertarian. The libertarian movement reached its culmination 
— and was not to reach the same height again for well over a century — in 
the Leveller movement of the 1640s. Williams himself had participated in 
the emerging Puritan cause. A protege of the great liberal jurist Sir Edward 
Coke, Williams owned opinions that had brought him into conflict with 
the ultra-Anglican and minion of the Stuarts, Archbishop Laud. Williams 
thus received his early ideological training in the liberal Dissenter move- 

Free and safe in a Providence enjoying religious liberty and separation 
of church and state, Roger Williams was later able to elaborate on his 
doctrines of religious liberty. His most famous theoretical work, The Bloody 
Tenent of Persecution for the Cause of Conscience Discussed, appeared 
in 1644. A sequel, The Bloody Tenent Yet More Bloody, rebutting the reply 
of the leading Massachusetts divine, Rev. John Cotton, appeared eight 
years later. Compulsory religion, Williams pointed out, violated the 


Christian tenet of love and, by "ravishing and forcing souls" and con- 
sciences, Jed to hypocrisy for fear of state punishment. Coerced religion, 
Williams declared, leads to sects "slaughtering each other for their several 
respective religions and consciences." Again unusual for his time, Wil- 
liams insisted that not only Protestants, but all religions must be com- 
pletely free, including "the most paganish, Jewish, Turkish, or anti-Chris- 
tian consciences and worships." He added, "To molest any person, Jew or 
Gentile, for either professing doctrines or practicing worship. . .is to per- 
secute him and such a person (whatever his doctrine or practice be true or 
false) suffereth persecution for conscience." And this man of courage 
and principle nobly proclaimed the importance of cleaving to truth: "We 
must not let go for all the flea-bitings of the present afflictions. . .having 
bought Truth dear we must not sell it cheap, not the least grain of it for the 
whole world . . . least of all for a little puff of credit and reputation from 
the changeable breath of uncertain sons of men." 

While Williams' heart was in the right place in insisting on purchasing 
all land voluntarily from the Indians, there were important aspects of the 
land problem that he had not thought through. While the Indians were 
certainly entitled to the land they cultivated, they also (1) laid claim to 
vast reaches of land which they hunted but which they did not transform by 
cultivation, and (2) owned the land not as individual Indians, but as col- 
lective tribal entities. In many cases the Indian tribes could not alienate 
or sell the lands, but only lease the use of their ancestral domains. As a 
result, the Indians also lived under a collectivistic regime that, for land 
allocation, was scarcely more just than the English governmental land- 
grab against which Williams was properly rebelling. Under both regimes, 
the actual settler — the first transformer of the land, whether white or 
Indian — had to fight his way past a nest of arbitrary land claims by others, 
and pay their exactions until he could formally own the land. 

Williams, always a friend of the Indians, bought from the sachems, or 
chiefs, a grant of the large amount of land called the "Providence Purchase." 
Williams then donated the land to a Town Fellowship, a joint property held 
equally by himself and five of his followers — the Fellowship shortly en- 
larged to thirteen. As long as only the original settlers lived in Providence, 
all was peaceful, and virtually no government arose at all. As Williams 
described it, "The masters of families have ordinarily met once a fort- 
night and consulted about our common peace, watch and plenty; and 
mutual consent have finished all matters of speed and pace." But it was 
inevitable that new settlers would come, and then that the arbitrary na- 
ture of the land allocation should give rise to conflict. Indeed, recrimina- 
tions and tensions rapidly developed. Not realizing the inherent injustice 
of any arbitrary claims to unsettled land, and therefore not realizing that 
he and the others of the Fellowship were taking on the aspect of quasi- 
feudal land monopolists, Williams naturally believed he had acted gener- 


ously in giving the land to the Fellowship. But the later settlers, forced 
to purchase the land from the Fellowship, properly resented this feudalistic 

The Fellowship, later enlarged to fifty-four, assigned eleven acres to 
each member, plus the right to an additional 100 acres apiece. In this way 
some of the land passed quickly to the individual members of the Fellow- 
ship. If their acreage was not in precise proportion to the degree of settle- 
ment, at least this land was now in the hands of its just owners, the in- 
dividual settlers. But, unfortunately, the great bulk of the Providence tract 
still remained in the hands of the collective Fellowship proprietary, and in 
1640 the Fellowship moved to formalize its claim, and to establish a pro- 
prietary oligarchy over future settlers. In that year, the Fellowship drew up 
a "Plantation Agreement at Providence," and appointed a board of five 
"disposers" that would take charge of disposing of the land, managing the 
land held in common, and passing judgment on the qualification of new 
settlers. Taught little humility by their own sufferings, the disposers 
tended to be rigorous in their judgments. Before a man was permitted 
to settle and buy land in Providence, even the land of an individual settler 
willing to sell, the Fellowship had to approve, and a veto by one Fellow was 
sufficient to bar the newcomer. The original Fellows soon admitted 
more members, but the number of Fellows never exceeded 101, and the 
later members received only twenty-five rather than 100 acres of collec- 
tively owned land. Positions in the Fellowship descended to the heirs of 
the original members; the other settlers who were permitted to become 
landowners in Providence were excluded from the select circle of the 
Fellowship proprietary, which thus controlled the land and government. 
The Fellowship kept a sharp check on its five disposers, but this hardly made 
the government of Providince less oligarchical. 

The most oligarchic feature of the Plantation Agreement dealt with 
Pawtuxet, a tract of land immediately south of Providence. Pawtuxet had 
been purchased from Indian sachems in the spring of 1638 and turned 
over by Williams to the Fellows, then numbering thirteen. Overriding 
Williams' wishes, the Fellows, led by William Arnold and William Harris, 
decided in October of 1638 eventually to divide the Pawtuxet lands among 
themselves, without even providing for any new settlers. The Agreement 
of 1640 confirmed Pawtuxet as a closed proprietorship. 

Roger Williams carried his principles of religious liberty into practice. 
There was no state church, and no one was forced to attend church. 
Williams himself was to change his religious views several times, be- 
coming a Baptist for a few months, and then ending as a Seeker, who held 
to no fixed creed. Liberty has its own inner logic, and so Williams' religious 
liberty in Providence extended also to women. One of Williams' Salem 
adherents who had followed him to Providence, Joshua Verin, tasting the 
heady wine of religious liberty, grew disenchanted with Williams' 
sermons and stopped attending church. This was perfectly legitimate in his 


newfound home, but Verin went so far as to prevent his wife from attend- 
ing, even beating her to prevent her from going. Verin was therefore 
disfranchised by Providence in the spring of 1638 for restraining his wife's 
conscience; he soon returned to Salem, where he could again exercise the 
Puritan role of despotic paterfamilias. 

The logic of liberty had, as we shall see, even more drastic implications. 
For, as some citizens of Providence began to reason, if the conscience of 
the individual was to be supreme in religious matters, if the state was to 
have no power to interfere with any actions determined by his religious 
conscience, why shouldn't his liberty extend to civil matters as well? 
Why shouldn't the individual's conscience reign supreme in all civil as well 
as religious affairs? 



Suppressing Heresy: The Flight of 
Anne Hutchinson 

Very shortly after the expulsion of Roger Williams, the Massachu- 
setts Bay Colony was rent far more widely by another heresy with roots 
deep in the colony — the "antinomianism" of Mrs. Anne Hutchinson. A 
major reason for the crisis that Anne Hutchinson's heresy posed for Mas- 
sachusetts was that she occupied a high place in the colony's oligarchy. Ar- 
riving in Massachusetts in 1634, she and her husband lived close to Gov- 
ernor Winthrop's mansion in Boston and participated in Boston's high so- 
ciety. A friend of the eminent Rev. John Cotton, she first confined her reli- 
gious activities to expatiating on Cotton's sermons. Soon, however, Mrs. 
Hutchinson developed a religious doctrine of her own, now known as anti- 
nomianism. She preached the necessity for an inner light to come to any 
individual chosen as one of God's elect. Such talk marked her as far more 
of a religious individualist than the Massachusetts leaders. Salvation came 
only through a covenant of grace emerging from the inner light, and was 
not at all revealed in a covenant of works, the essence of which is good 
works on earth. This meant that the fanatically ascetic sanctification im- 
posed by the Puritans was no evidence whatever that one was of the elect. 
Furthermore, Anne Hutchinson made it plain that she regarded many Puri- 
tan leaders as not of the elect. She also came to assert that she had re- 
ceived direct revelations from God. 

In contrast to Williams' few Salem followers, Anne Hutchinson had 
rapid and sweeping success in converting her fellow citizens. John Cotton 
now became a follower of hers, as did young Sir Henry Vane, chosen gov- 
ernor by the General Court in 1636, and Anne's brother-in-law, Rev. John 
Wheelwright. Indeed, John Winthrop (deputy governor in 1636) wrote dis- 


gustedly that virtually the entire church at Boston had become her converts. 
As bitter enemies of Anne, there remained especially Winthrop and the 
senior minister of Boston, John Wilson. Mrs. Hutchinson failed in her at- 
tempt to oust Wilson from his post, but she did succeed in having him cen- 
sured by his own congregation. 

The Hutchinsonian movement began, if inadvertently, to pose political 
problems for the oligarchy as well. The conscription of soldiers for a war 
against the Indians met resistance from Boston Hutchinsonians, on the 
ground that the military chaplain, Rev. John Wilson, was under a "cov- 
enant of works'* rather than of grace. 

The anti-Hutchinson forces moved first against the fiery Reverend Mr. 
Wheelwright; the General Court narrowly convicted him of sedition and 
contempt in March 1637. But the sentencing of Wheelwright was post- 
poned. The turning point of the Hutchinson affair came with the May elec- 
tion of 1637, which the Winthrop forces managed to win by shifting its site 
from pro-Hutchinson Boston to Newtown (now Cambridge). The election 
pitted Sir Henry Vane against former governor Winthrop and Thomas 
Dudley, running for his old post of deputy governor. With the election turn- 
ing on the Hutchinson issue, Vane carried Boston but lost the other towns 
heavily. Winthrop, Dudley, and the majority of the magistrates, or assist- 
ants, were carried by the conservative, anti-Hutchinson faction — a not sur- 
prising victory when we consider that suffrage was restricted to the ranks 
of accepted church members. 

This overwhelming defeat spelled swift suppression for the antinomian 
heretics. Quickly the new General Court passed a law that penalized stran- 
gers and was directed against a group of Hutchinsonians known to be on 
their way from England. Disheartened, Sir Henry Vane gave up the 
struggle and returned to England. Seeing the way the wind was blowing, 
John Cotton promptly deserted his old disciple, abjectly recanted his 
"heresies," and at a Newtown synod denounced ninety-one antinomian 
opinions as unwholesome or blasphemous. Vane was gone and Cotton an 
apostate, but there was still the Reverend Mr. Wheelwright. The already 
convicted Wheelwright was again hauled before the General Court and 
sentenced to banishment from the colony. Wheelwright walked through 
the snows to New Hampshire in the north, where he founded the settle- 
ment of Exeter. When by 1643 Massachusetts had appropriated the New 
Hampshire towns, Wheelwright fled to Maine. But by 1646 Wheelwright 
had recanted, bewailed his own "vehement and censorious spirit," and 
was allowed back into Massachusetts. 

Having vented their fury on the major followers and isolated the leader, 
the Puritan oligarchs proceeded to the culminating point of the drama: 
the trial and persecution of Anne Hutchinson herself. There was no in- 
dependent judiciary in the colonies; the supreme judicial arm in Massa- 
chusetts was the legislative body, the General Court, at this time a uni- 
cameral legislature presided over by the governor. Anne Hutchinson was 


hauled up for "trial," or rather public examination, before the General 
Court in November 1637. Anne's enemies on the General Court duly 
"tried" her, convicted her of sedition and contempt, and banished her from 
the colony. Governor Winthrop summarized the proceedings thus: "The 
Court hath already declared themselves concerning . . . the troublesomeness 
of her spirit, and the dangers of her course amongst us, which is not to be 
suffered." Winthrop then called for a vote that Mrs. Hutchinson "is un- 
fit for our society — and . . . that she shall be banished out of our liberties and 
imprisoned till she be sent away. . . ." Only two members voted against 
her banishment. 

When Winthrop pronounced the sentence of banishment Anne Hutch- 
inson courageously asked: "I desire to know wherefore I am banished." 
Winthrop refused to answer: "Say no more. The court knows wherefore, 
and is satisfied." It was apparently enough for the court to be satisfied; no 
justification before the bar of reason, natural justice, or the public was 
deemed necessary. 

The General Court now proceeded against all the leading Hutchinson- 
ians, concentrating on sixty Bostonians who had previously signed a mod- 
erate petition denying that Reverend Wheelwright had stirred up sedition 
among them. Two members of the General Court, both of whom had spo- 
ken up for Mrs. Hutchinson at the trial, were expelled from the court and 
banished from the colony. Many people were disfranchised, and seventy- 
five citizens were disarmed, on the pretext that the Hutchinsonians 
were plotting to follow the path of the German Anabaptists of old and rise 
up in armed revolt. The "reasoning" as expounded by Dudley at the Hutch- 
inson trial was that the German Anabaptists had also claimed to enjoy pri- 
vate revelations. Hutchinsonian military officers were forced to recant, 
but the determined Capt. John Underhill refused to do so and was duly ban- 

Anne Hutchinson's ordeal was still not ended. Spared banishment during 
the rugged winter, she was imprisoned at the home of one of her major 
enemies, and the elders attempted, throughout the winter, to argue her 
out of her convictions. Finally, they subjected her to an ecclesiastical trial 
the following March. Tormented, ill, and exhausted, Mrs. Hutchinson 
momentarily recanted, but as she continued to be denounced, her spirits 
returned and she put forth her views again. 

To save himself from the fate meted out to the other Hutchinsonians, 
John Cotton now apparently felt that his personal recantation was not 
enough, so he joined the pack rending Mrs. Hutchinson at the ecclesiastical 
trial. This man, whom Anne Hutchinson had revered and followed to the 
New World, now turned on her savagely, wailing that he had been duped, 
denouncing her as a liar and for conduct tending eventually to infidelity. 

The Boston ecclesiastical court then pronounced excommunication upon 
Anne, and it was the peculiar satisfaction of the Rev, John Wilson, her 
most bitter enemy, to deliver the sentence: 


Courtesy of The New-York Historical Society, New York City 

John Winthrop 





m I 

I : 

1 i 

■ ,-,■■-.::■:■ ,,-':.. ^^ 

Courtesy of The New-York Historical Society, New York City 

Increase Mather 

Courtesy of The New-York Historical Society, New York City 

Edmund Andros 
(Engraved by E, G. Wilhams & Bros., New York) 

Courtesy of The New-York Historical Society, New York City 

Governor Berkeley and the Insurgents (Bacon's Rebellion, 1676) 

Cotton Mather 

Courtesy of The New-York Historical Society, New York City 

William Penn 
(Engraved by J. Posselwhite) 

Statue of Roger Williams in Providence, Rhode Island 

Statue of Anne Hutchinson 

I do cast you out and in the name of Christ, I do deliver you up to Satan, that you 
may learn no more to blaspheme, to seduce and to lie, and I do account you 
from this time forth to be a heathen and a Publican . . . therefore I command 
you in the name of Christ Jesus and of His Church as a Leper to withdraw 
yourself out of the Congregation. . . . 

The undaunted Anne Hutchinson had the last word: "Better to be cast out 
of the Church than to deny Christ." 

While Anne was undergoing imprisonment and subsequent excommu- 
nication, the leaders of the Hutchinsonian movement gathered together 
to flee the colony, and to prepare a home for themselves and Anne away 
from the developing reign of terror in Massachusetts. On March 7, 1638, 
nineteen men, including Anne's husband, William Hutchinson, gathered 
at the home of the eminent Boston merchant William Coddington, one of 
the wealthiest men in the colony and its former treasurer. In a solemn 
compact, the nineteen formed themselves into a "Bodie Politick," choos- 
ing Coddington as their judge. 

The Hutchinsonians first intended to go to Long Island or Jersey to 
make their home, but they were persuaded by Roger Williams to settle in 
the Rhode Island area. On Williams' friendly advice, Coddington purchased 
the island of Aquidneck from the Indians, and founded on the island the 
settlement of Pocasset (now Portsmouth). Anne, ill and exhausted, joined 
her husband at Aquidneck in April as soon as her trial was over. 

The enormous significance of Roger Williams' successful flight and set- 
tlement of Providence two years before was now becoming evident. For 
Williams' example held out a beacon light of liberty to all the free spirits 
caught in the vast prisonhouse that was Massachusetts Bay. By the happy 
accident of the demise of the Council for New England, the land south of 
Massachusetts Bay and west of Plymouth was free land, free of proprietary 
and effective royal government alike. It was a haven for religious liberty 
and for diverse sects and groupings, and for an extension of the logic of li- 
berty as well; for once liberty is pursued and experienced, it is difficult to 
hobble its uttermost expansion. 

When the ill Anne Hutchinson arrived at her haven in Aquidneck, the 
many months of persecution had left their mark and she suffered a mis- 
carriage, as did her beautiful young follower Mary Dyer, who had stood up 
to walk out of the Boston church with the excommunicated Anne. The Pu- 
ritan leaders of Massachusetts Bay, preoccupied for years afterward with 
the Hutchinsonian menace, characteristically gloated in righteous sat- 
isfaction at the misfortunes of Anne and Mary. The theocrats were jubi- 
lant and the Rev. John Cotton, Governor Winthrop and the Rev. Thomas 
Weld all hailed Anne's and Mary's sufferings as the evident judgment of 
God. It was typical of the Puritans to hail the misfortunes of their en- 
emies as God's judgment, and to dismiss any kindness shown them by 
others as simply God's will and therefore requiring no gratitude to those 
showing it. 


Massachusetts Bay continued, indeed, in a state of hysteria over the 
Hutchinsonian heresy for a number of years. Anne's followers and sym- 
pathizers were fined, whipped, and banished, and five years later Robert 
Potter was executed for being a Hutchinsonian. It was also typical that, 
with Anne outside their jurisdiction, the Boston church leaders should send 
a committee to Aquidneck to try to persuade her of the error of her ways. 
If they could no longer inflict violence upon Anne, they could at least badger 
and harass her. It is not surprising that the beleaguered Anne gave the com- 
mittee short shrift, kicked it out of her home, and denounced the Boston 
church as a "whore and a strumpet." 

In Pocasset, Anne was spiritual leader of the flock and Coddington tem- 
poral leader. The Pocasset government was chosen by the assembled free- 
holders, and, like Providence, the government had to consent to the ar- 
rival of any newcomers to the colony. But Anne Hutchinson was becoming 
more and more concerned for the principle of freedom of conscience rather 
than for propagating her own religious views. She began to see that Cod- 
dington and his associates were launching a new theocracy of their own in 
the infant colony. For Coddington was "judge" of the settlement, basing 
his decrees and decisions on the "word of God," as interpreted by himself. 
And Anne began to chafe at the state control that Coddington was increas- 
ingly imposing. 

Coddington based his seizure of power on the flimsy legalism of his being 
the sole name on the deed of purchase of Aquidneck from the Indians. 
Therefore, he claimed for himself all the rights of a feudal lord owning the 
whole island, owning and renting out the lots of all the settlers, and ass- 
erting authority over all land grants. 

At the beginning of 1639, Anne Hutchinson led a movement that suc- 
cessfully modified the Pocasset constitution; the change gave the body of 
freemen a veto over the actions of the governor, and the right to elect three 
"elders" to share the governor's powers. Thus, the increasingly dictatorial 
rule of Coddington was checked. 

Coddington reacted most ungraciously to this limitation on his power, 
and he appointed a constable to keep watch on any "manifest breaches 
of the law of God that tend to civil disturbance." Had Anne Hutchinson fled 
the theocracy of Massachusetts only to see a miniature raise its head in 
her new home? Finally, in April, the Hutchinson forces insisted, at the 
Pocasset town meeting, on a new election for governor — a demand that 
startled Coddington, who expected to remain in office indefinitely and 
without the fuss and bother of elections. Vigorous pressure by the freemen 
on Coddington finally won the demand for elections, and William Hut- 
chinson was elected by a large majority. Coddington and his followers, 
including Nicholas Easton, John Coggeshall, William Dyer, and John Clarke, 
abandoned Pocasset and founded the new settlement of Newport, at the 
southern end of Aquidneck Island. 

The victorious Hutchinsonians adopted a new compact of government 


and changed the name of the town to Portsmouth. Oligarchical distinc- 
tions were eliminated, and all the male inhabitants signed the new com- 
pact. Provision was made for jury trial, and church and state were at last 
separated. There was no provision, for example, in the new civil compact 
about the "word of God," the only rule by which Coddington had made his 
decisions. Anne Hutchinson had been rapidly learning firsthand about 
state persecution, and freedom of religion for all Christians was now guar- 
anteed. William Hutchinson was chosen new chief judge of the colony. 

The power-hungry Coddington now mounted an armed attempt to rule 
over Portsmouth, but was forcibly ejected by the Hutchinsonians. Soon, 
however, Coddington was able to arrest William Hutchinson and order his 
disfranchisement. Anne and her husband were again victims of harass- 
ment and persecution. 

A year later, on March 12, 1640, the two groups came to an agreement 
and the settlements of Portsmouth and Newport (the latter by now being 
the larger of the two) united, primarily on the libertarian principles of 
Portsmouth. Coddington was chosen governor, however, and William 
Hutchinson one of his assistants. The separate towns were allowed to re- 
tain their autonomy, and the laws were to be made by the citizens rather 
than by an oligarchy. And a year later, in May 1641, the Aquidneck gov- 
ernment declared: "It is ordered that none shall be accounted as de- 
linquent for doctrine." Religious liberty had been officially decreed in 
Aquidneck. The settlements of Providence and Aquidneck had raised the 
banner of freedom for all religious creeds. In this free air, diversity of re- 
ligion came to proliferate in the colony. 

Soon, however, Mrs. Anne Hutchinson, ruminating in the free air of 
Rhode Island on the meaning of her experience, came to an astounding 
and startling conclusion — and one that pushed the logic of Roger Williams' 
libertarianism far beyond the master. For, as Williams reported in be- 
wilderment, Anne now persuaded her husband to give up his leading post 
as assistant in the Aquidneck government, "because of the opinion, which 
she had newly taken up, of the unlawfulness of magistry." In short, the logic 
of liberty and a deeper meditation on Scripture had both led Anne to the ul- 
timate bounds of libertarian thought: to individualist anarchism. No mag- 
istracy whatever was lawful. As Anne's biographer Winifred Rugg put it: 
"She was supremely convinced that the Christian held within his own 
breast the assurance of salvation. . . . For such persons magistrates were 
obviously superfluous. As for the other, they were to be converted, not 

To the Puritans of Massachusetts, Aquidneck was an abominable "Isle 
of Errours" and the Rhode Island settlements were "Rogue's Land." Mas- 
sachusetts began to plot to assert its jurisdiction over these pestiferous 
settlements and to crush the havens of liberty. Indians were egged on to 

•Winifred K. Rugg, Unafraid, A life of Anne Hutchinson (Boston, 1930). 


raid the Providence and Aquidneck territories. Massachusetts then shut 
off all trade with the Rhode Islanders, who were thus forced to turn to the 
neighboring Dutch settlements of New Netherland for supplies. A son and 
son-in-law of Anne's, visiting Boston, were seized and very heavily fined 
by the authorities, and then banished from Massachusetts on pain of death. 

In 1642, soon after his resignation from public office, William Hutch- 
inson died. Deprived of her husband and mainstay, disgusted with all gov- 
ernment, and deeply worried about Massachusetts' threatened encroach- 
ments on Rhode Island (and knowing also that the Bay Colony was now re- 
garding her as a witch and therefore deserving of death), Anne decided to 
leave once more. Taking a few members of her family and a few dozen 
disciples, Anne Hutchinson left Rhode Island to go to Long Island, in New 
Netherland, and finally to settle in the wilderness of Pelham Bay. There, 
in late summer of 1643, Anne and her family were murdered by a band of 
Indians, engaged in armed struggle with the Dutch. William's and Anne's 
deaths were hailed and gloated over by the Puritan oligarchy of Massachu- 
setts Bay. To the unconcealed delight of the divines of Massachusetts, 
Anne Hutchinson had, finally, been physically destroyed; but the spirit of 
liberty that she embodied and kindled was to outlast the despotic theo- 
cracy of Massachusetts Bay. Perhaps, in the light of history, the victory in 
the unequal contest was Anne Hutchinson's 

Even in the short run, Massachusetts Bay was soon to meet again the 
spirit of Anne Hutchinson — the emphasis on the inner light, on individual 
conscience, on liberty — in the new sect of Quakers, a sect joined by many 
Hutchinsonians, including William Coddington and Mary Dyer, and in the 
Baptists, headed by Anne Hutchinson's sister, Catherine Scott, and by the 
Hutchinsonian Dr. John Clarke. 



The Further Settlement of Rhode Island: 
The Odyssey of Samuell Gorton 

In the meanwhile, religious liberty, and hence diversity, was flourishing 
in nearby Providence. An Anglican minister who had been living in the 
vicinity before the Williams settlement continued to preach there. Bap- 
tists came also to the colony and exerted great influence. The first Baptist 
minister was Dr. John Clarke, a physician, who had arrived in Massachu- 
setts from England just in time to join with Anne Hutchinson and leave 
for Aquidneck. William Harris also was a leading Rhode Island Baptist 
from the earliest days. The brilliant Baptist leader and sister of Anne 
Hutchinson, Mrs. Catherine Scott, even succeeded in temporarily con- 
verting Roger Williams (along with many other leaders) to the Baptist 
faith in early 1639. The inveterate Baptist insistence on individual consci- 
ence and the right of religious liberty was very close to Williams' views. 
In addition, each Baptist church was separate and completely autono- 
mous; the officers were democratically elected by the entire congrega- 
tion. In a few months, however, Williams shifted again to become a 
Seeker, which he continued to be for the rest of his life, Williams had 
arrived at the point of questioning the claims of all churches to apostolic 
authority or to correctness of ritual. 

In addition to religious liberty, and apart from land allocation, the pow- 
ers of government in Providence were limited. Disputes were to be set- 
tled by arbitration, but the arbitration was compulsory, enforced by the rul- 
ing "disposers." And, in contrast to Massachusetts, there was no estab- 
lishment of government schools. 

One of the most repeatedly and consistently persecuted Americans of 
the seventeenth century was Samuell Gorton, an individualist and a free 


spirit who had been a clothier in London. Gorton, a "Professor of the Mys- 
teries of Christ," challenged not only the right of theocracy, but the wisdom 
of all priests and formal religious organizations. Politically, this indiv- 
idualist argued that any transgressions of government beyond the rights 
guaranteed by the English common law were impermissible, Gorton also 
opposed theocratic laws against immorality, and questioned the existence 
of heaven and hell, the truth of the Scriptures, baptism, and the taking of 

Chafing at the restrictions of Anglican England, Gorton left London for 
Boston in 1636 "to enjoy liberty of conscience, in respect to faith towards 
God." It did not take Gorton long to see that he had only moved from the fry- 
ing pan into the fire; he arrived just in time to see the expulsion of the Rev- 
erend Wheelwright to Exeter, and he realized that if Massachusetts 
would not tolerate the presence of the relatively orthodox Wheelwright, it 
could surely have little place for the likes of him. 

Gorton therefore left quickly for Plymouth, where he began to attract 
considerable following for his views. Adopting Anne Hutchinson's device of 
prayer meetings in his parlor, Gorton began to arouse the ire of the colony's 
oligarchs by making a convert of the wife of the Rev. Ralph Smith, the res- 
pected retired minister of Plymouth. Another inconvenient convert was a 
sewing maid of the current minister of the colony, the Reverend Mr. Ray- 
ner. Reverend Mr. Smith began a campaign to expel Gorton from the col- 
ony, and a suitable excuse came shortly to hand. Employed as Mrs. Gorton's 
serving maid was a widow newly arrived from England, Ellen Aldridge. 
Charges began to be whispered about Plymouth Colony that Ellen had com- 
mitted the grievous offense of "smiling in church," Complaints were duly 
lodged against her, and the Plymouth fathers summarily ordered Ellen to be 
promptly expelled from the colony as a "vagabond." Gorton spoke up heat- 
edly in protest over these high-handed proceedings, for which high crime 
Gorton himself was hauled into court in late 1638. In a pretrial hearing, 
Gorton accused one of the magistrates of lying, a charge which only added 
to his crimes. At this trial Gorton denounced the grave violation of English 
common law in uniting the offices of prosecutor and magistrate in the 
same man. Protesting against the injustice of the trial, Gorton addressed 
the crowd: "Ye see good people how you are abused! Stand for your liberty; 
and let them not be parties and judges." The frightened church elders, on 
hearing this plea, urged the court to inflict summary punishment to re- 
move this libertarian troublemaker from the colony. Gorton was duly pro- 
hibited from speaking in his own defense, and the court swiftly fined Gor- 
ton and gave him fourteen days to leave Plymouth. Gorton was thereby 
forced to walk through the wilderness in the snow, and was barely able to 
finish the journey southwestward to Portsmouth, where he settled. 

In Portsmouth, Gorton found political rule centered in William Codding- 
ton, the sole magistrate. Joined there by his main Plymouth disciple, 
John Wickes, Gorton promptly amassed a large following, and formed an 

alliance with Anne Hutchinson to overthrow Coddington's dictatorial 
rule and to repulse Coddington's armed attempt to impose his rule in 

A year later, however, with Newport joined to Portsmouth, Coddington 
was back in command, even though opposed by the majority of Portsmouth 
residents. Again Samuell Gorton, who had steadfastly refused to enter 
into the agreement to join Newport, felt the lash of persecution, and again 
Gorton's defense of someone in his employ was the catalyst used. 

At the end of 1640 an old woman's cow invaded Gorton's land. Coming 
after the cow, the trespassing old lady got into a fight with a serving girl 
of Gorton's, after which the woman hauled the servant into court. Gorton 
defended his servant, and strongly protested the unfair trial, attacking 
the justices as "just asses." He also denied the authority of the constituted 
court and government. Since no royal charter covered Rhode Island, it was 
free territory, and therefore no authority to set up a government could 
exist. Coddington, the chief justice at the trial, ordered Gorton arrested 
forthwith, crying out, "You that are for the King, lay hold on Gorton"; to 
which the defiant Gorton instantly riposted: "All you that are for the King, 
lay hold on Coddington." A hand-to-hand fight ensued, with Codding- 
ton's armed guard gaining the victory. Gorton was arrested and John 
Wickes, who had also defended the servant, was put into the stocks, 
Gorton himself was soon whipped and banished from Aquidneck; Wickes 
and several Gortonites were banished as well. 

What next? The only place left for Gorton to go was Providence, and so 
he and a dozen families of disciples arrived there in the winter of 1640-41. 
In Providence, Gorton found two major factions: the owners of Pawtuxet, 
headed by William Arnold and William Harris, and Providence proper, 
led by Roger Williams. The oligarchical Pawtuxet clique was particularly 
fearful that Gorton might convert a majority of townsmen and overturn 
its rule, and so the Pawtuxet rulers refused to allow the Gortonites to use 
the town commons. The Arnold faction urged that the "turbulent" Gorton 
and his followers be expelled immediately from the settlement. But Gor- 
ton expanded his following, and they soon became a third force in the 
little colony, 

And what of Roger Williams? Enjoying increasing political power, 
Williams was beginning to lose the edge of his libertarian principles. He 
became alarmed that Gorton, far more individualist and libertarian than 
himself, was "bewitching and bemadding poor Providence , . . with his 
unclear and foul censures of all the ministers of this country. ..." 
Williams tried to violate, sub rosa y his own principles of religious liberty 
by simply excluding Gorton from Providence, an exclusion which was in 
the power of the landed oligarchy of the town. Or rather, Williams, more 
moderate than Arnold, wanted to grant Gorton admission only if he 
pledged to respect the authority of the government, and if he abandoned 
such "uncivil" protests as had gotten Gorton expelled from Portsmouth. 


Finally, in November 1641 some of the Pawtuxet faction seized some 
cattle owned by a Gortonite, to satisfy a debt judgment the Gortonites 
believed to be arbitrarily decreed by the disposers. This led to a full-fledged 
riot between the two factions (the Gortonites being led by Randall Holden 
and John Greene) and the Gortonites managed to save their friend's 
property from the "cattle stealers." 

Because of the riot, thirteen of the Pawtuxet oligarchs made a desperate 
and treacherous call for the Massachusetts government to intervene with 
force to expel the "anarchist" Gortonites, The oligarchs pulled out all the 
stops against their enemies, accusing the Gortonites of being anarchists, 
and leaning toward communism and free love, or "familism." Their appeal 
to Massachusetts was a direct threat to all the precious liberties that the 
men of Providence had fled Massachusetts to preserve. And thus began an 
active threat to Rhode Island liberty from Massachusetts that was to last 
and be of great significance for the little settlements for years to come. 

Massachusetts replied haughtily to the Pawtuxians that it would inter- 
vene only if Providence would first submit to its authority, which Provi- 
dence would not do. Indeed, less than a third of the Providence citizens 
supported the Arnold-Harris petition. 

Williams, however, now joined the Pawtuxians in obtaining the ex- 
pulsion of Gorton from Providence. Gorton was now banished even from 
this relative haven of religious liberty. His only consolation was that this 
time he wasn't whipped out of town. Gorton and his followers now 
moved to West Pawtuxet, an unused tract of land which Gorton had pur- 
chased the year before. But once again, the alarmed Arnold-Harris forces in 
September 1642, requested coercive intervention by Massachusetts and 
in return offered the submission of Pawtuxet to Massachusetts authority. 
Delighted, Massachusetts accepted with alacrity, and their declamations 
thoroughly alarmed the Gortonites. Governor Winthrop, for example, ex- 
ulted that Samuell Gorton "was a man not fit to live upon the face of 
the earth," and Massachusetts troops made ready, it appeared, to put that 
harsh value judgment into effect. 

There was, it seemed, no place in America that would tolerate the exis- 
tence of Samuell Gorton — not even the relatively free Providence and 
Aquidneck settlements. There was but one course left: Gorton determined 
to found an entirely new settlement of his own. Gorton, a friend of the 
Indians and of Indian rights, moved with his flock south of Providence to 
purchase Indian land and found the settlement of Shawomet in November 

Tasting the heady wine of freedom at last, the Gortonites sent a defiant 
letter to the Massachusetts authorities, which the diligent Boston synod 
discovered to contain no less than twenty-six 'blasphemies." Massachu- 
setts and its Pawruxian underlings now formed a secret alliance with 
some marauding Indian chiefs to lay claim to Shawomet territory in order 
to charge that the Gortonite land purchase was null and void. Massachu- 


setts, suddenly and for the first time championing Indian land rights and 
implicitly assuming jurisdiction in an area not covered by its charter, or- 
dered Gorton to appear before the Massachusetts courts to defend his land 
claims. Gorton of course refused. 

In the summer of 1643, Massachusetts shamefully arranged the murder 
of the high Indian chief Miantonomo, who had sold Shawomet to Gorton. 
Again the Massachusetts General Court wrote to the Shawomet settlers, 
ordering them all to appear at Boston, ostensibly to settle the land claims. 
Randall Holden wrote the defiant reply for the Gortonites on September 
15, a reply filled, of course, with what the Bostonians called blasphemies. 
Addressing himself to "the great and honoured Idol General, now set up in 
the Massachusetts," Holden denounced the submitting Indian sachems 
(headed by one Uncas) as thieves, pointing out that Shawomet was outside 
Massachusetts jurisdiction, and proceeding to talk to the Massachusetts 
oligarchy, at long last, in terms which none had yet dared to use. Calling 
them a generation of vipers, murderers of Anne Hutchinson, and compan- 
ions of Judas Iscariot, Holden and the Gortonites heroically declared that 
they would henceforth treat Massachusetts precisely as Massachusetts 
treated them: 

According as you put forth yourselves towards us, so shall you find us transformed 
to answer you. If you put forth your hand to us as country-men, ours are in 
readiness for you; if you exercise the pen, accordingly do we become a ready 
writer; if your sword be drawn, ours is girt upon our thigh; if you present a gun, 
make haste to give the first fire, for we are come to put fire upon the earth, and 
it is our desire to have it speedily kindled. 

To this valiant defense of the rights of Shawomet, Massachusetts re- 
plied instantly in the way it knew best: by declaring the Gortonites 
"fitted for the slaughter" and by dispatching an armed troop. The Mass- 
achusetts troop having laid siege to Shawomet, Gorton asked Massachu- 
setts to accept an offer of Providence ministers to arbitrate the dispute. 
Winthrop quickly refused, charging that this was just a ruse to delay matters 
while Gorton stirred up the Indians. After the soldiers plundered the 
houses and seized the cattle of the Gortonites, the settlers surrendered, 
but only on the pledge of the soldiers that they would be treated, en route to 
Boston, as guests rather than as captives. As soon as the surrender was com- 
pleted, however, the Massachusetts soldiery reneged on the agreement 
and the Gortonites were marched to Boston under orders that anyone who 
spoke on the way would be knocked down and anyone who dared to step 
out of the column would be run through with a bayonet. 

Arriving in Massachusetts, the Gortonites found that that colony had now 
conveniently forgotten about the dispute over the Indian land claims. With 
the Gortonites at last in its power, Massachusetts held them exultantly 
without bail on charges of heresy, blasphemy, and opposition to the author- 
ity of Massachusetts. According to now hallowed Massachusetts custom, it 
was not enough of a scourge upon the Gortonites to be charged with heresy, 


blasphemy, and treason; in addition, they had to be constantly pursued 
and harassed by the church elders and ministers trying to convert them to 
the Puritan faith. Once — only once — was Gorton allowed to speak in a 
Massachusetts church, to the great regret of the theocracy. Courageously 
he proclaimed: "In the church now there was nothing but Christ, as that all 
our Ordinances, Ministers, and Sacraments, etc. were but men's inven- 
tions, for show and pomp." 

On hearing this, some of the ministers urged the magistrates speedily 
to "hew" Gorton "in pieces." The Rev. John Cotton urged death for the 
heretics; indeed, the cry for death was joined by all but three ministers of 
the colony. Happily, the death vote lost (by two votes) in the General Court — 
the supreme judicial as well as legislative arm of the colony. Not that the 
court's sentence was not severe. On November 3, 1643, the General Court 
condemned the Gortonites to indefinite terms of hard labor in chains and 
forbade them to speak any of their "blasphemous and abominable heresies" 
on pain of death. 

The indomitable Gortonites, however, did not let their sentence faze 
them in the least. Working at hard labor rather than languishing in prison 
meant that they traveled throughout the colony, working in different 
towns. Defiantly ignoring the death threat, the Gortonites preached their 
view of the Gospel wherever they went, and made numerous converts all 
over the colony, especially among women. Before long a majority of the 
colony was at the least sympathetic to their plight. Many influential 
leaders, including former governor John Endecott, urged death for the dis- 
obedient Gortonites, and Rev. John Cotton recommended that they be 
starved into submission. But finally, the alarmed and perplexed authorities 
decided that the safest course was to get the resisting Gortonites out of 
the country. They freed the prisoners, giving them fourteen days to leave 
the colony on pain of death. The Massachusetts authorities assumed that 
the banishment order covered Shawomet; acting on the technicality that 
the town was not explicitly mentioned in the order, the Gortonites re- 
turned home to Shawomet. 

They were not long allowed to remain there, however. On hearing of 
their return, Governor Winthrop ordered the Gortonites out, and the hap- 
less settlers fled back to Portsmouth, where they rented houses and land, 
despite the opposition of Governor Coddington to their immigration. But 
the trials and tribulations of Samuell Gorton and his flock were far from 

Much as Roger Williams continued self-government free from English 
rule, the threat of Massachusetts imperialism, brought on by the Pawtuxet 
oligarchs, had driven him to realize that it was now necessary to gain an 
English charter to protect the Rhode Island settlement, once and for all, 
from Massachusetts aggression. Sailing in 1643 for England, now in the 
midst of the exhilarating ideological ferment of the Puritan Revolution, 


Williams persuaded Parliament, in the spring of 1644, to grant Providence 
and Aquidneck a charter as the united "Providence Plantations." 

While in England, Williams happily associated with the radical liberal 
wing of the revolution — especially with Sir Henry Vane, the former ally 
of Anne Hutchinson in Massachusetts — and with its struggle against any 
established Presbyterian or Puritan church. It was in England, indeed, 
that Williams was inspired to elaborate his principle of religious liberty 
and to publish his famous Bloody Tenent. His writings were hailed by the 
British liberals, who used Williams' arguments in their own struggle 
against any budding theocracy. 

The new Rhode Island charter was happily loose and vague, allowing any 
sort of self-government generally and vaguely compatible with English 
laws. On Williams' triumphal return to Providence in late 1644, the 
colony's General Assembly met for the first time and formed a loose and 
informal organization, with Williams chosen as "chief officer." Bitterly 
opposed to the charter, however, was William Coddington, whose increas- 
ingly pressed claim to sole ownership of all of Aquidneck Island was now 
permanently in jeopardy. Coddington treacherously followed the Pawtuxet 
lead by seeking to bring in the force of Massachusetts (and also the newly 
formed New England Confederation) against the new charter. Forgetting 
his former fight for liberty alongside Anne Hutchinson, Coddington actually 
wrote Winthrop that he believed wholeheartedly in the Massachusetts 
system, "both in Church and Commonwealth." 

Samuell Gorton returned to Portsmouth just in time to throw himself 
into the defense of the charter against Coddington's attempted usurpation. 
Gorton was, in fact, made a judge by the anti-Coddingtonians of 

Despite the protective charter of 1644, Massachusetts continued, in the 
next two years, to claim authority over all of the Rhode Island settlements. 
Thus, in 1645 Massachusetts and its sister colonies of the United Colonies, 
or New England Confederation, declared war against the peaceful Narra- 
gansett Indians and dispatched a military force to Rhode Island. Upon hear- 
ing of Roger Williams' negotiation of neutrality with the Narragansetts, 
Massachusetts and Plymouth thundered to the Providence Plantations 
that if they persisted in their neutrality they would be treated as enemies, 
and also forbade them to operate under their 1644 charter. 

Moving specifically against the Gortonites, Massachusetts, in autumn 
1645, authorized a group of families to settle at Shawomet, on the lands 
seized from the Gortonites. Plymouth, however, felt that it too had a claim 
to the territory and warned off the new settlers from Massachusetts. The 
United Colonies of New England promptly proceeded to assume jurisdic- 
tion and presumed to award the territory to Massachusetts. 

Alarmed at the developing aggression of Massachusetts, Samuell Gorton 
decided to go to England to seek definite English protection for his rights 


to Shawomet. Holding also an impressive commission from his friends, the 
Narragansett Indians, who declared themselves willing to submit to an 
English charter, Gorton, along with Holden and Greene, left for England in 
late 1645. 

After a decade of odyssey and persecution, it was highly gratifying for 
Samuell Gorton to arrive in England at the height of the great libertarian 
ferment spawned by the Levellers and other radical individualist groups. 
Gorton had the time of his life for two years, spoke throughout England, was 
widely hailed, and wrote and published two books — his literary output 
being inspired, evidently, by the radical libertarian ferment in England. 

In the fall of 1646, Randall Holden and John Greene returned trium- 
phantly to Boston, armed with an order from the Earl of Warwick, head of 
the Commission for Foreign Plantations, to allow the Shawomet settlers to 
return home in freedom and to remain there without molestation. The 
submission of the Narragansett Indians to England also successfully kept the 
potentially bountiful Narragansett country out of Massachusetts' hands. 
The incensed Massachusetts authorities seriously considered jailing Holden 
and Greene and ignoring Warwick and Parliament. But cooler heads fin- 
ally prevailed, and the two Rhode Islanders were allowed to proceed on 
their way. 

Samuell Gorton himself exultantly returned to Boston in the spring of 
1648. The infuriated General Court of Massachusetts immediately decided 
to lock up Gorton "to prevent the infection of his pestilent doctrine," but 
Gorton triumphantly produced a letter of safe conduct from the Earl of 
Warwick. The disgruntled General Court had been stopped from arresting 
Gorton, but it gave him a week to get out of the colony. Gorton returned to 
Shawomet, which he gratefully renamed Warwick. William Arnold, the 
leading Pawtuxet oligarch, continued to complain about Gorton to Massa- 
chusetts and urge intervention, but Massachusetts was now chastened and 
decided, at long last, to leave the Gortonites alone. The saga of violent 
Gortonite persecution was finally over. 

Shawomet, and later Warwick, had no government at all until it united 
with the other towns to form the colony of Providence Plantations in 1648. 
Until then, the little settlement, in the words of Gorton, "lived peaceably 
together, desiring and endeavoring to do wrong to no man, neither English 
nor Indian, ending all our differences in a neighborly and loving way of 
arbitration, mutually chosen amongst us." But this anarchist idyll soon came 
to an end. Beginning in 1647 and completed the following year, the four 
Rhode Island Towns of Providence, Portsmouth, Newport, and Warwick 
were united into the colony of the Providence Plantations. From a perse- 
cuted outcast, Samuell Gorton had now become a respected leader of the 
colony. As the undisputed leader of Warwick, Gorton was chosen town 
magistrate and for numerous other posts, and he was Warwick's main re- 
presentative in the new colony. 

The code of the united colony, drawn up in 1647, followed Gorton's in- 


sistence on conforming judicial procedure to English Law, The code had 
been largely drafted by Roger Williams, acting as moderator of the Provi- 
dence town meeting, and discussed in detail both by committees of corre- 
spondence in the various towns and by the Assembly. Numerous safeguards 
were included against the exercise of power by the central government of 
the colony. The selected officers, who constituted the supreme judicial 
power, did not, as in other colonies, constitute also an upper legislative 
house. Instead, they had no position in the legislature, which was in fact a 
General Assembly of all the freemen of the colony. The only representative 
body was a General Court — a committee of six from each town, meeting 
in between the meetings of the larger General Assembly. Laws passed by 
the General Court were subject to the approval of the towns. If a majority 
of the towns approved, then the law would stand, but only until confirma- 
tion by the next General Assembly. Popular elections were to be annual, 
for all representatives and executive officers. The duties of each official 
were carefully defined and every officer was warned not to go "beyond his 
Commission." Wrongdoing by any official made him liable to impeach- 
ment and trial in the General Assembly. In addition, the towns were 
empowered to make their own apportionment of the taxes levied upon 
them by the central government, and to do their own collecting. 

One of the crucial safeguards raised in the code against the central 
government was the guarantee of home rule to each town. To guard 
against the supremacy of any one town, the General Court and Assembly 
were to rotate their meeting place among the towns. Moreover, the code 
provided for initiative and referendum, and nullification by the towns. 
Initiative permitted the "agitation" and passage of new legislation by 
a majority of the town meetings themselves, thus completely bypassing 
the General Court. The referendum-and-nullification provision forced the 
General Court, as we have seen, to refer its enactments to the towns, a 
majority of which could veto any legislation. In accordance with Rhode 
Island's role of providing asylum, there were (unlike Massachusetts) no 
"stranger" laws preventing persons or towns from receiving newcomers 
without the consent of the central government. 

The code also provided no mitigation of legal penalties for "gentlemen" 
criminals, and there was no primogeniture in the law of inheritance. In 
contrast to the brutal edicts of Massachusetts, punishments for crime were 
restricted, and were far more proportional to the gravity of the crime. Only 
once did Rhode Island under the code whip or brand anyone, and branding 
was abolished by 1656. And in contrast to the scores of capital crimes in 
England and Massachusetts, Rhode Island listed only nine crimes as capital. 
More important, only two criminals were executed in Rhode Island during 
Roger Williams' long lifetime — and both of these were murderers. 

Religious liberty was guaranteed in the Rhode Island code, and the laws 
against personal immorality, though not completely absent, were rela- 
tively mild. There was neither sumptuary legislation against "unseemly" 


adornment nor any attempt to regulate a person's church life, though laws 
restricting drinking and gambling were imposed. And while witchcraft 
was technically illegal, the law against supposed witches was never en- 
forced in Rhode Island. 

After several years of this system, the General Assembly in 1650 dissolved 
itself, thereby ending the democratic veto of the body of freemen. A newly 
strengthened unicameral General Court of six from each town now con- 
stituted the legislature of the colony. Provision for veto of any law by a 
majority of towns was, however, retained. 

In the new government, it might be added, Samuell Gorton was 
especially selected to serve on committees of defense against Massachu- 
setts' encroachments, a task which Gorton was certainly happy — and well 
fitted — to pursue. 

Let it not be thought, however, that Rhode Island was in any sense out of 
the woods. For one thing, it still faced the Coddington threat. Thwarted in 
his claim to unfettered rule in Aquidneck, Coddington spurned Williams' 
offers to arbitrate their differences, and turned again to an outside colony to 
practice subversion — this time to Plymouth. Aquidneck would not agree to 
the scheme, however, and Coddington left for England in late 1648 to plead 
his case there. 

In the meanwhile, Massachusetts Bay continued its pressure on Rhode 
Island, and especially on Warwick and the Gortonites. Massachusetts and 
Plymouth stirred up the Indians to plunder Warwick. And then Massachu- 
setts returned to its imperialist course by meddling in behalf of William 
Arnold and the Pawtuxet oligarchy. Arnold embarked on an aggressive 
campaign of land-grabbing, and forcibly seized the land of William Field 
of Pawtuxet. When Field sued in the Providence courts, Arnold refused to 
appear, and produced obviously mutilated documents of title to try to 
prove that Providence had no jurisdiction. These documents would, in 
effect, have ejected many Pawtuxians from their homes and lands, 
which would then become the property of Arnold and his friends. At this 
point, spring 1650, Massachusetts suddenly intervened and ordered 
Rhode Island to end its prosecution of this case, thus throwing its cloak of 
protection over the land theft by William Arnold and his friends, and 
moving to extend its suzerainty over Rhode Island. 

To add to Rhode Island's and Gorton's troubles, Massachusetts quickly 
followed this intervention by granting to Arnold and his Pawtuxet friends 
the right to encroach on Gortonite land in Warwick. It did this by decreeing 
the forced merger of Pawtuxet and Warwick into one county of Suffolk. 
Shortly afterward, in the fall of 1650, Massachusetts troops arrived in Rhode 
Island and prevented the Warwick citizens from prosecuting Arnold. 
Finally, to make the little colony's cup overflow, Coddington returned from 
England in the spring of 1651 with an astounding new charter, granting 
Coddington the right to rule Aquidneck Island as its sole feudal lord and ruler 
for life, to be aided only by six appointed assistants. 


The hammer blows against Rhode Island were now falling thick and fast. 
Massachusetts sent an official warning to Roger Williams that any 
attempt to collect taxes from William Arnold and his Pawtuxet oligarchs 
would lead the Bay magistrates to intervene "in such manner as God shall 
put into their hands." And, what is more, the United Colonies of the New 
England Confederation authorized Plymouth to assume complete juris- 
diction over Warwick. 

Little Rhode Island was clearly in desperate straits. Its plight was rein- 
forced by Massachusetts' persecution of the growing sect of Rhode Island 
Baptists. As early as 1646, the United Colonies had ordered the vigorous 
suppression of Baptists for rejecting infant baptism. The Baptists proceeded 
to aggravate the Puritan theocracy all the more by adopting the practice of 
baptism by immersion. Dr. John Clarke, the Baptist leader in Rhode Island, 
infuriated the Massachusetts authorities by converting some citizens of 
Seekonk, on the Plymouth side of the border, and Massachusetts went so 
far as to threaten armed action against Plymouth if it did not suppress the 
invading Baptists. By the fall of 1651, Massachusetts was negotiating with 
William Coddington for forcible extradition of all those refugees from 
Massachusetts who had found shelter at Aquidneck, and it began to con- 
template the invasion of Rhode Island for the armed suppression of the 
Rhode Island Baptists. 

During this time, John Clarke and Obadiah Holmes, the successful Baptist 
missionaries to Seekonk, had fallen into the hands of the Massachusetts 
oligarchy. Visiting a sick old communicant at Lynn, Clarke and Holmes 
were arrested and sentenced to a heavy fine. The eminent Clarke pro- 
tested that Massachusetts proceedings violated traditional rights under 
English law; the report of Governor Endecott held — characteristically — 
that Clarke "deserved death" and "was worthy to be hanged." Obadiah 
Holmes refused to sanction the legitimacy of his sentence by not paying 
the fine, at which point the enraged Rev. John Wilson, minister of the 
Boston church, struck Holmes in a fury and called down "the curse of God" 
upon him. Holmes received an extremely severe whipping of thirty lashes, 
scarring him for life. After this additional fines were levied on the two 
men, with promise of another severe whipping in case of default. 

Roger Williams protested fervently against this brutal treatment, but 
to no avail. Deeply moved, Williams asked Massachusetts how it was that 
"he that speaks so tenderly for his own, hath yet so little respect, mercy 
or pity to the like conscientious persuasions of other men." And Williams 
cried out: 

It is a dreadful voice from the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords: "Endicot, 
Endicot why huntest thou me? Why imprisonest thou me? Why finest, 
why so bloodily whippest, why wouldest thou . . . hang and burn me?" 

There was rising disgust in England as well. The English Puritans had 
come increasingly under the influence of libertarian views, emanating 


from the revolutionary ferment. As Massachusetts tightened its theocratic 
rule, the English Puritans became more and more horrified. Sir Richard 
Saltonstall, himself a former Massachusetts oligarch who had long since 
returned to England, wrote to Massachusetts in eloquent and aggrieved 
reaction to the prolonged whipping of Holmes:"It doth not a little grieve 
my spirit to hear what sad things are reported daily of your tyranny and 
persecutions in New England, as that you fine, whip and imprison men for 
their consciences." English Puritans, Saltonstall reminded them, had hoped 
that "you might have been eyes to God's people here, and not practice 
those courses in a wilderness, which you went so far to prevent." 

Rhode Island was clearly hemmed in on every side, with Plymouth seiz- 
ing Warwick, Coddington seceding to become sole overlord of Aquidneck 
and allying himself with the colony's enemies in Plymouth and Massachu- 
setts, and Massachusetts assuming jurisdiction to protect the Pawtuxet 
land-grab and threatening suppression of Rhode Island Baptists — indeed the 
crushing of the colony altogether. It was more than high time for a final 
desperate attempt to save the little colony. Obviously, the only thing to do 
was to send respected agents immediately to England, to try to obtain firm 
parliamentary protection for Rhode Island's charter. Samuell Gorton, now 
president of Providence Plantations (a truncated colony including only 
Warwick and Providence), was the active force in raising 200 pounds to 
send Roger Williams to England. The majority of citizens of Aquidneck, 
bitterly opposed to Coddington s usurpation, raised the money to send Dr. 
John Clarke of Newport along with Williams, to represent the island. 
The Gortonites quickly informed the United Colonies that Williams was 
going to England on their behalf, among other things to detail the numer- 
ous wrongs they had been suffering at the hands of Plymouth and Massa- 

Alarmed by this decision, the determined William Arnold pleaded with 
Massachusetts to send troops immediately and take over Rhode Island be- 
fore the opportunity was lost. Asking Massachusetts to keep his letter 
secret, Arnold — not noted for his own personal piety — warned that should 
Rhode Island be allowed to continue in existence "under the pretense of 
liberty of conscience . . . thee comes to live all the scum the runaways of 
the country." Arnold pointed to a horrible example: a man imprisoned in 
Connecticut (New Haven) for adultery had escaped prison and fled to 
Rhode Island, where he was not executed, although the guilty woman, 
having failed to escape, was properly put to death. Arnold also charged 
indignantly that some of the Gortonites "cryeth out much against them 
that putteth people to death for witches; for they say there be no other 
witches upon earth . . . but your own pastors and ministers." 

Massachusetts, however, growing a bit cautious, did not take Arnold's 
tempting advice. Instead, it went so far as to permit Williams and Clarke 
free passage to Boston, where they set sail for England in November 1651. 

With Williams gone, Samuell Gorton was the dominant force in the 


Providence- Warwick government. As president, and then as moderator of 
the Assembly the following year, Gorton was able to enact the outlawing 
of slavery in the colony, and also to limit the term of any indentured service 
to ten years. Unfortunately, the former law remained a dead letter, but it 
was the first act of abolition of slavery in American history. Gorton also se- 
cured the elimination of imprisonment for debt. Samuell Gorton had suc- 
cessfully completed his odyssey of persecution to become one of the foremost 
leaders of the colony. 



Rhode Island in the 1650s: 
Roger Williams' Shift from Liberty 

With Williams gone to England, William Coddington discovered that it 
was not easy to impose absolute feudal rule upon a free people. The citizens 
of Aquidneck, led by Capt. Richard Morris and Nicholas Easton, launched an 
armed revolt against Coddington in early 1652, threatening him and order- 
ing his feudal court to disperse. Coddington, searching for yet another im- 
perial armed force that he could rule and hide behind, turned in desperation 
to the Dutch, asking vainly for a troop of New Netherland soldiers to suppress 
the revolt. When Coddington's chief aide, Captain Partridge, seized the 
home of one of the citizens to enforce a Coddingtonian court order, the en- 
raged populace rose up, occupied the house, and hung the captain then and 
there. The voice of the people had been heard, and Coddington, speedily tak- 
ing the lesson to heart, reversed New England custom by fleeing to Massa- 
chusetts. He dared return only when he had signed an agreement relin- 
quishing all claims to any greater ownership of Aquidneck than had any 
other freeman. 

In the meantime, Williams and Clarke easily convinced the English gov- 
ernment of the spuriousness of Coddington's claim, and obtained an order 
vacating the Coddington charter. Soon William Dyer returned to Aquidneck 
from England with the good news. The Coddington threat was finally over. 

Williams arrived in England at the moment of Puritan victory and at the 
peak of the revolutionary intellectual ferment. The great libertarian Leveller 
movement was at the peak of its influence, and religious freedom had 
given rise to many diverse and enthusiastic sects. Williams plunged again 
into intimate association with such liberal Puritan leaders as Sir Henry 
Vane and John Milton. The upsurge of libertarian views had led to a polar- 


ization of ideas among the Puritans, a polarization accelerated by the dis- 
ruption that always follows the victory of a revolutionary coalition. The or- 
thodox Puritans, or Independents, headed by the Rev. John Owen, began to 
move toward a new state church of their own and toward the suppression of 
other religious views. The liberal wing of the Puritans, including Vane and 
Milton, moved in to battle this essentially counterrevolutionary trend, and 
Williams enthusiastically joined in this struggle. 

Eight years before, Williams' Bloody Tenent had been ordered burnt by the 
Presbyterians then in control of Parliament. Now his writings in behalf of 
religious liberty received great acclaim in Parliament and in the victori- 
ous New Model Army. This was especially true of his published reply to the 
Rev. John Cotton's attack on the Bloody Tenent. Williams' rebuttal was The 
Bloody Tenent Yet More Bloody, in which he denounced Massachusetts' 
persecution of men for their consciences. Williams also proceeded to a 
keen attack on the Massachusetts oligarchy: a forced payment of tithes 
created a church leadership "rich and lordly, pompous and princely," and 
gave it a monopoly on public office. Wasn't the insistence on compulsory 
church attendance a reflection of the fear of the rulers that, given a free 
choice, people's attendance in their churches would fall off? Williams 
pointed also to Holland's commercial greatness continuing side by side 
with its practice of religious toleration. And he warned prophetically that 
the Irish question would never be settled so long as the laws persecuting 
Roman Catholics remained. Only full religious freedom, "free Conferrings, 
Disputings and Preachings," could reduce civil strife and bloodshed. 

Williams even pressed on from his insight into religious liberty to a much 
wider politico-economic libertarian view: the kings of the earth, he de- 
clared, used power "over the bodies and goods of their subjects, but for the 
filling of their paunches like wolves." These rulers, employing "civil arms 
and forces to the utmost," pressed for "universal conquest" to establish 
"rule and dominion over all the nations of the Earth." But, on the contrary, 
government's proper function is to secure to each individual his "natural 
and civil rights and liberties . . . due to him as a man, a subject, a citizen." 

In another tract written in that exhilarating spring of 1652, Hireling Min- 
istry None of Christ's, Williams defended the idea of voluntary rather than 
compulsory donations to churches. He also declared: "I desire not that liberty 
to myself, which I would not freely and impartially weigh out to all the con- 
sciences of the world beside." Government's "absolute duty" was to insure 
"absolute freedom" for each religious group. 

Williams' new writings had a twofold thrust and purpose: to advance the 
cause of Rhode Island liberty against Massachusetts, and at the same time 
to wage the good and general fight for liberty against tyranny in England it- 
self. The major complementary tract, setting forth the specific case for 
Rhode Island, as well as a Baptist defense of religious liberty, was John 
Clarke's newly published /// Newes from New-England. 

Although Williams and Clarke had no difficulty disposing of Coddington's 


claims, the larger problem of Rhode Island vis-a-vis Massachusetts was far 
more difficult. For the crucial decision on which way the Puritan Revolution 
would turn rested not with Williams' friends but with Oliver Cromwell, 
head of the New Model Army and a centrist torn between the flaming 
principles of the liberals and a conservative yearning by orthodox Indepen- 
dents and Presbyterians for a swing back to statism. Cromwell, further- 
more, was friendly with the oligarchs of Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay, 
as well as with Roger Williams. Moreover, the Protector was, fatefully, 
balking increasingly at the obvious next task of the revolution: the smashing 
of feudal landholding. The libertarian groundswell of the revolution could 
not be sustained unless the feudal oligarchy was dispossessed of political 
power as well as of its restrictive hold of the land of England created by 
that power and on which that power was now based. 

Events moved swiftly, as happens in revolutionary situations, and by 
May 1653 Cromwell had made his fateful decision — for the landed olig- 
archy, for statism, and for counterrevolution. Parliament was forcibly dis- 
solved, and military dictatorship assumed by Cromwell. The great Leveller 
leader John Lilburne was jailed for his libertarian views and the Leveller 
movement broken up. Only the courageous Sir Henry Vane continued to 
cry out in protest, charging that Cromwell was plucking up liberty by its 
very roots. Williams too joined Vane in opposition, at least privately de- 
nouncing the Protector as a "usurper" and also attacking Cromwell's ag- 
gressive imperialism, typified by his war against the Dutch. 

Proceeding skillfully, however, Williams was able to procure an at least 
tentative confirmation by the English government of Rhode Island's char- 
ter claims. Short of funds and discouraged by the new turn on the English 
scene, and spurred by the turmoil in Rhode Island, Williams returned 
home in the summer of 1654, leaving John Clarke in London to continue 
the negotiations. 

Williams arrived to find a highly troubled colony. In particular, his be- 
loved Providence was again in great danger. William Coddington had been 
successfully overthrown, but this by no means ended trouble from Aquid- 
neck. Instead, the Aquidneck government, headed by William Dyer and in- 
cluding Nicholas Easton, had embarked on an aggressive, imperialist course 
of its own. It had launched piratical attacks on the Dutch of New Netherland, 
and simultaneously, in spring 1653, combined with a minority of Provi- 
dence-Warwick people to claim that theirs was the true government of 
the Rhode Island colony. The Providence-Warwick government had pro- 
tested, and charged that Aquidneck aggression against the Dutch would 
"set all New England on fire." At the same time, the Pawtuxet oligarchy 
again refused to pay taxes to Providence, and once again Massachusetts 
threatened armed intervention and prevented Providence from pressing 
its claim. 

Any lesser man than the great founder of Rhode Island would have 
been discouraged enough to give up. For almost two decades Roger Williams 


had fought for individual liberty, in England, in New England, and especially 
for his Rhode Island. And now England was retrogressing and Rhode Island 
was rent in civil strife. But the great peacemaker, who had conciliated so 
many disputes and conflicts with the Indians, now used his powerful influ- 
ence to bring the various factions into conciliatory negotiations. Rational 
persuasion and not force was his instrument in obtaining agreement and a 
new unity in the colony. Williams' main task was to bring into the nego- 
tiations a reluctant Providence, disgusted by the piracy conducted by the 
Dyer-Easton rulers of Aquidneck against the Dutch. Finally, each of the four 
towns agreed to choose six commissioners for a conciliation conference, 
which met at Warwick at the end of August 1654 The decision of the con- 
ference was at once a victory for Williams and unity, and a complete defeat 
for the Easton-Dyer faction. Reunion of the Rhode Island colony was 
achieved, and all the laws of Aquidneck since the Coddington usurpation 
were eliminated, thus restoring the old pre-Coddington dispensation to the 
colony. Coddington himself formally submitted to Rhode Island authority 
two years later. Roger Williams was then elected president of the reunited 

Even the Pawtuxet troubles were finally fading. Benedict Arnold, son of 
William and leader of the Pawtuxet oligarchy, finally abandoned the oli- 
garchy's long search for outside armed intervention, renounced Massachu- 
setts, submitted himself to Rhode Island, and moved from Pawtuxet to 
Newport. However, the actual reunion of the rest of the colony with Paw- 
tuxet did not take place for five more years, 

A year later, 1655, Oliver Cromwell greatly helped settle the outstanding 
issues by sending a formal message to Rhode Island, confirming its right to 
self-government under the charter of 1644. 

On this happy event, Williams wrote to Vane on behalf of the town of 
Providence. Vane had written to Rhode Island wondering why the colonists 
had fallen into such disorder. Williams replied for Providence that Rhode 
Island has 'long drunk of the cup of as great liberties as any people that we 
hear of under the whole heaven." Possibly this "sweet cup hath rendered 
many of us wanton and too active." Rhode Island, Williams pointed out, had 
been spared the civil war of England, the "iron yoke of wolfish bishops," and 
the "new chains of Presbyterian tyrants . . . nor in this colony have we been 
consumed with the over-zealous fire of the so-called godly Christian magis- 
trates." Williams expanded this recital of Rhode Island liberties to in- 
clude the political and economic: "Sir, we have not known what an excise 
means; we have almost forgotten what tithes are, yea, or taxes either, to 
church or commonwealth." 

It was at this very moment, the moment of triumph, that Roger Wil- 
liams made a radical and fateful shift in his thinking and actions. From a 
fighter for liberty, Williams suddenly became a statist and an invader of 
liberty; from a devoted advocate of freedom of conscience, Williams be- 
came himself a persecutor of that very conscience. What was the reason 


or reasons for this sudden turnabout, this betrayal of the causes for which 
Roger Williams had so long devoted his very life? 

No historian can ever look completely into the soul of another man, but he 
can make some judicious estimates. We may note several probable reasons 
for the shift. First, there is the subtle corruption wrought by power, even 
upon the staunchest libertarian. In the last analysis, power and liberty are 
totally incompatible, and when one gains the upper hand, the other suc- 
cumbs. The heroic fighter for liberty out of power is often tempted, once the 
reins of command are in his hands, to rationalize that now "order" must be 
imposed — by him; that "excessive" liberty must be checked — by him. Wil- 
liams had been president of Rhode Island only once before, in the 1644-47 
period when there was hardly any government in the colony. As soon as the 
colony was formally organized in 1647, Williams had been happy to retire 
to the private life of a successful fur trader. He had then only emerged from 
private life to go to England to save the colony. It was only now, in effect, 
that he was assuming the political post of head of Rhode Island. 

A second reason was the coinciding theoretical error that Williams had 
made in his letter to Vane, that what Rhode Island had been suffering from 
was an excess of liberty — the "sweet cup hath rendered many of us wan- 
ton. ..." On the contrary, the conflicts in Rhode Island had been caused not 
by too much liberty, but by too little: the land monopoly and the treach- 
ery of the Pawtuxet oligarchs, the Coddington attempt to impose feudal rule, 
the continuing imperialist pressure of Massachusetts and the United Col- 
onies. It had only been the remarkable sturdiness of the libertarian tradi- 
tion in Rhode Island that had kept the colony free despite all these dangers, 
and had enabled it to escape them at last; and the thought and life of Roger 
Williams had been perhaps the chief ingredient in that tradition. But that 
great tradition, strong enough to surmount other periods, was not strong 
enough to survive its betrayal by its own leading architect. 

A third reason for Williams' shift was undoubtedly his discouragement at 
the retrogression of the libertarian movement in the mother country. Wil- 
liams had been one of the great lights of that movement, and it in turn had 
inspired and nourished him — in the 1630s, the 1640s, and on his last visit to 
England. But then it had been an exciting, rising movement; now, because 
of Cromwell's betrayal, it was rapidly losing heart and being put to rout. Was 
the now aging Williams strong enough to keep his convictions at the same 
burning pitch? Was he strong enough to resist all the temptations to follow 
the Cromwellian path? Evidently the answer is no. We may consider, also, 
Williams' earlier lapse from the libertarian principle in the days of the Gor- 
ton persecution — and Williams' eventual siding with the Pawtuxet faction 
to expel Gorton from Providence. Purity of principle had been cast aside 
even then. And this indicates a fourth contributory reason for Williams* 
change of heart: a tendency to react testily when people more radically in- 
dividualist than himself appeared upon the scene. 

Williams' shift from liberty to tyranny was first revealed, sharply and 


startlingly, in his imposing upon the people of Rhode Island compulsory mil- 
itary service. The other colonies underwent conscription, but this was a 
strong blow to the libertarian movement of Rhode Island. Driving through a 
compulsory-militia bill and the selection of military officers in a Provi- 
dence town meeting, Williams precipitated vehement opposition. The 
leaders of this libertarian opposition were the Baptists, who denounced the 
bearing of arms as un-Christian and conscription as an invasion of religious 
liberty and of the natural rights of the individual This opposition was itself 
radicalized by the crisis precipitated by Williams, and the logic of the paci- 
fist opposition to conscription and arms-bearing led them straight to the ne 
plus ultra of libertarianism: individualist anarchism. The opposition — led by 
Rev. Thomas Olney, former Baptist minister at Providence, William Harris, 
John Field, John Throckmorton, and Williams' own brother Robert — circu- 
lated a petition charging that "it was blood-guiltiness, and against the rule 
of the gospel, to execute judgment upon transgressors, against the private 
or public weal." In short, government itself was anti-Christian. 

The emergence of William Harris as an anarchist was a particularly 
striking phenomenon. This contentious man, who had been one of the orig- 
inal few to accompany Williams to Providence and had then joined the 
Pawtuxet oligarchy, had been suddenly aroused by William Arnold. Harris 
had been one of the victims of Arnold's attempted land-grab under the 
aegis of Massachusetts. Apparently this sobering experience of how the 
state can be used to oppress as well as to confer privileges, added to his 
disfranchisement by Providence a dozen years before for street brawling, 
had set Harris on the individualist path. His Baptist pacifism completed the 

Roger Williams bitterly condemned the "tumult and disturbance" caused 
by the anarchist petition — conveniently failing to place any blame for the 
tumult on his original imposition of conscription. And Williams sneered at 
the "pretense" that arms-bearing violated the petitioners' conscience. 
He then came up with a famous analogy to support his newfound statist 
philosophy. He likened human society to a ship on which all people were 
passengers. All may worship as they pleased, he graciously declaimed, 
but none is to be allowed to defy "the common laws and orders of the ship, 
concerning their common peace or preservation." And if any should mutiny 
against their "officers" or "preach or write that there ought to be no com- 
manders or officers because all are equal in Christ, therefore no masters 
nor officers, no laws nor orders, no corrections nor punishments . . . the 
commanders may judge, resist, compel and punish such transgres- 
sions. . . ." In short, not only were "mutinous" actions to be punished by 
the state, but even the very advocacy of anarchist principles. 

Williams' analogy was superficially attractive, but of dubious relevance. 
If society inhabits a ship and must obey "its" officers, who are the owners 
of the social "ship"? What gives one set of men in a country the right to 
claim "ownership" of that country and the people in it, and therefore the 


right to command and force others to obey? These were questions that 
Williams never bothered to raise, let alone answer. He might also have 
pondered in what way individual persons, pursuing their separate ways 
on land, were in any way comparable to a ship — and a single ship at that — 
which has to go in one direction at a time. Why must everyone be on one ship? 

Williams' pronouncement did not convince the opposition either. The 
anarchists rose in rebellion against Williams' government, but were put 
down by force. Despite this failure, at the 1655 elections a few months 
later, at which Williams was reelected president, Thomas Olney was 
elected an assistant, and was seated even though he had participated in 
the uprising. 

Williams now began a systematic campaign of statism in the colony. The 
central government was aggrandized at the expense of the home-rule 
rights of the towns. In May 1655 the Assembly decided to bypass its finan- 
cial dependence on funds raised by the towns, and to appoint officials to 
levy general taxes directly on the people. The following year it was decreed 
that no laws of the colony may be "obstructed or neglected under pretense 
of any authority of any of the town charters." 

Williams also moved to stiffen the laws against immorality. The Assem- 
bly decreed the compulsory licensing of liquor dealers and an excise tax 
on liquor. Sales of spirits to Indians were restricted severely. Punishments 
were intensified. The four towns had, until then, failed to provide prisons 
or stocks, so little was the need and so pervasive the spirit of freedom. But 
the colonial Assembly now moved to fill this gap and also to outlaw "verbal 
incivilities," which were to be punished by the stocks or payment of a fine. 
Adultery, which had not been subject to express penalty in the code of 
1647, was now to be punished by whipping and a fine. Corporal punish- 
ment was to be levied for "loose living" and masters were to be held re- 
sponsible for the "licentious careers" of servants or minor sons. On 
the other hand, divorce laws were liberalized, to allow for divorce for 
reasons of incompatibility. 

It is clear that a large part of the motivation for the new statist trend 
was a desire to curry favor with Cromwell. It was shortly after receipt of 
Cromwell's official reconfirmation of Rhode Island's charter, in June 1655, 
that the Assembly passed the law against loose living, on information that 
Cromwell was restive at the state of morality in the colony. Furthermore, 
Cromwell in his message had ordered Rhode Island to provide against 
"intestine commotions." The colony swiftly passed a law against "ring- 
leaders of factions," providing that such ringleaders, when found guilty by 
the General Court, were to be sent to England for trial. Here was the 
fulfillment of the ominous hints of Williams' ship analogy. 

But Baptist anarchism continued to multiply in Rhode Island. One of the 
new adherents was none other than Catherine Scott, the leading Baptist 
minister and a sister of Anne Hutchinson. Anne Hutchinson's lone pio- 
neering in philosophical anarchism before her death had planted a seed 


that came to fruition a decade and a half later. Also adopting anarchism 
were Rebecca Throckmorton, Robert West, and Ann Williams, wife of 
Roger's brother Robert. Catherine Scott and Rebecca Throckmorton were 
soon to espouse the Quaker faith. Finally, in March 1657 the crackdown 
arrived, and the four individualists were summoned into court by Williams, 
as being "common opposers of all authority." Williams relented after 
this public intimidation, however, and the charges were dismissed. 

Meanwhile, Williams' relations with Pawtuxet had undergone a subtle 
but significant change. A former aggressor that many times had called on 
Massachusetts to crush the colony, Pawtuxet now became a relative island 
of liberty resisting encroachment from Providence. Apart from its oligarchy 
in land, Pawtuxet had managed to avoid paying taxes either to Rhode 
Island or to Massachusetts Bay, and was content to live in liberty from 
immorality laws or from laws against trading with the Indians. It was now 
Williams who began to agitate aggressively for a joint Massachusetts- 
Providence suppression of Pawtuxian liberties and for the forcible end to 
Pawtuxet secession. 

This entire Pawtuxian experience with governments served to confirm 
William Harris in his anarchism, and also to embitter Williams against 
Harris more than against his fellows. Harris was particularly vehement in 
opposition to taxation — all taxation — and circulated to all the towns a man- 
uscript denouncing "all civil government," and urged the people to "cry 
out no lords, no masters." Harris predicted that the state, the "House of 
Saul," would inevitably grow "weaker and weaker," whereas the "House 
of David," Harris and his followers, would grow "stronger and stronger." 
Harris also condemned all punishments and prisons, all officials and 
legislative assemblies. 

William Harris was now hauled into court, charged with "open defiance 
under his hand against our Charter, all our laws . . . parliament the Lord 
Protector and all government." Harris, instead of quieting down under in- 
timidation as had Mrs. Scott and the others, swore that he would continue 
to maintain his anarchism "with his blood." Persistently refusing to recant, 
Harris repeated his interpretation of Scripture that "he that can say it is 
his conscience ought not to yield subjection to any human order amongst 
men." The General Court found that Harris was guilty of being "contemp- 
tuous and seditious" and he and his son were heavily bonded for 500 
pounds. The evidence was sent to England in preparation for a trial there 
for treason. 

The treason trial never materialized, but only because the ship carrying 
the evidence to England was lost at sea. Harris was finally sufficiently 
cowed, however, to abandon his anarchism and he turned instead to a 
lifelong harassment of the hated Roger Williams through litigation of 
land claims. 

Williams retired from the presidency in 1657, and a year later Pawtuxet 
was reunited with the rest of the colony. 



The Planting of Connecticut 

Rhode Island was not the only New England colony settled by former 
residents of Massachusetts Bay. But whereas Rhode Island was peopled 
by exiles and refugees, the exodus to Connecticut — the other area of south- 
ern New England not covered by charter or other royal grant of owner- 
ship — was largely voluntary. 

From the early 1630s the Connecticut vacuum proved to be a magnet 
for settlers from several of the colonies. The first settlers were Dutch from 
New Amsterdam, who in mid-1633 established a trading post — for trade 
with the Indians — at Fort Good Hope (now Hartford). The preceding fall, 
Edward Winslow, a leader of Plymouth, had explored the Connecticut 
River Valley; after unsuccessfully trying to promote a joint Plymouth- 
Massachusetts expedition in the summer, he organized a trading post on 
the river at Windsor, north of Hartford, in the fall of 1634. John Oldham, 
from Massachusetts, founded a small settlement, at about the same time, 
at Pyquag (Wethersfield), south of Hartford on the Connecticut River. In 
the following year, other groups from the Bay settled around Hartford 
and even at Windsor, in defiance of Plymouth's claim to engrossment 
of the area. 

In the summer of 1635, a Dutch vessel, erecting a fort and trading post 
at the mouth of the Connecticut River, was forcibly driven off by John 
Winthrop, Jr., a son of the Massachusetts governor and an agent of Lord 
Saye and Sele, Lord Brooke, and other lords who had jointly received a 
grant of the territory from the Council for New England. Winthrop named 
the conquered settlement Saybrook in his patron's honor. 
One of the most important founders of Connecticut was Rev. Thomas 


Hooker, minister at Newton in the Bay Colony. While Hooker was scarcely 
a libertarian, he was a moderate who was highly critical of the rigors of the 
Massachusetts theocracy. Hooker especially objected to the policy of ad- 
mitting only a minority to membership in the approved Puritan churches, 
and of the virtually automatic reelection of state officials that had been 
instituted by the ruling oligarchy. Hooker also urged a clearer definition 
of the laws in order to limit the arbitrary rule of the magistrates. Finally, 
Hooker and his followers left Massachusetts in 1636 to settle at Hartford, 
his associates being led by the wealthy John Haynes and the lawyer Roger 
Ludlow, who moved southwescward in three years to found the Connecticut 
towns of Fairfield and Stratford. These and the previous river towns had 
all been settled with the permission of Massachusetts. But now a conflict 
arose between the claims of the English lords to the entire Connecticut 
Valley (as well as to Saybrook), and the right of the settlers themselves. 
In March 1636 the Massachusetts General Court, in a decision agreed upon 
by Hooker, the Connecticut settlers, and Winthrop — who had been re- 
garded as governor of the territory — created a commission to govern the 
Connecticut River towns. In the joint agreement, Massachusetts — and 
Winthrop — ceded all governmental powers to the commission (all commis- 
sioners were to be residents of the territory), which was empowered to 
govern with the consent of all the inhabitants — thereby at least formally 
widening the base of government beyond the body of church membership. 
The commission was to be temporary, lasting only a year, but the effect 
was to relinquish all of Massachusetts' and Winthrop's claims to the river 
towns, and to leave Winthrop in charge of Saybrook. 

Early the following year, three river towns — Hartford, Windsor (which 
had bought out Plymouth's claim), and Wethersfield — elected three men 
from each town to meet as a General Court and act as the sovereign 
governmental authority. In the spring of 1638, the Reverend Mr. Hooker 
declared in an election-day sermon that the "foundation of authority is 
laid ... in the free consent of the people"; in January 1639 the three 
towns established their own permanent government based on a written 
constitution, the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut. The most northerly 
river town of Agawam (Springfield), led by William Pynchon, refused to 
join in this constitution, and instead submitted itself (permanently, as it 
eventually turned out) to Massachusetts' rule. 

The Fundamental Orders, largely inspired by Hooker, provided for a 
unicameral General Court of four deputies from each of the towns, as 
well as an annually elected governor and assistants. The governor was to 
be subordinate to the General Court, which had the legislative power not 
subject to any gubernatorial veto. Furthermore, the governor and the 
assistants could not serve for two consecutive years. These provisions, 
however, did not prevent the assistants from forming an oligarchy, by 
obtaining a veto power over the General Court. Yet the united colony of 
Connecticut still remained a federation of independent towns, since all 


power not expressly granted to the General Court continued to be reserved 
to the separate towns. 

Let it not be thought, however, that the more democratic Connecticut 
framework was significantly less intolerant than Massachusetts Bay. The 
Connecticut leaders agreed with Massachusetts that a major task of the 
state was to compel uniformity of religious creed. Connecticut's law of 
1642 provided that if "any man after legal conviction shall have or worship 
any other God but the Lord God, he shall be put to death." In 1644 the 
General Court established the Puritan church by taxing all residents for 
its support. And failure to attend a Puritan church, or speaking critically 
of its official doctrine, was outlawed and punished by stiff fines. While 
there was no official religious test for voting in Connecticut, as there was 
in the Bay, suffrage was restricted to freemen. Admission to the ranks of 
freemen was, in effect, restricted to orthodox churchmen, the admission 
being decided by the General Court itself. And one of the requirements 
for admission was that the person be of "peaceable and honest conversa- 
tion"; interpretation of this vague test rested with the authorities. The chief 
difference between Massachusetts and Connecticut rule was that Hooker 
and Connecticut based the government of the colony on the body of ortho- 
dox church members, while Massachusetts government was far more cen- 
tered in the hands of an oligarchy of magistrates and ministers. 

Whereas local town government was guarded against any invasion by 
central government power, the same cannot be said for the liberty of the 
individual in Connecticut. Land allocation was, as in Massachusetts, under 
the control of the local oligarchy; land reverted to the ownership of the 
town if the individual owner moved away; forced labor was imposed for 
road building; and strangers had to be admitted by the town government. 
Blasphemy, drunkenness, and the like were outlawed and indentured 
servants jealously guarded. Speech critical of the government was severely 
punished. One woman was duly executed for expressing anti-Christian 
sentiments. A score of women were punished for alleged witchcraft and 
several hanged — the persecution of "witches" reached a peak in the early 
1660s. Repeatedly, in the late 1640s and 1650s, the Connecticut govern- 
ment took steps to overrule the towns so as not to admit supposed "unde- 
sirables" to residence. Minimum requirements of property for "freemen" 
and for "admitted inhabitants" were imposed. By the 1660s oligarchy 
in Connecticut had grown considerably and at the expense of the originally 
more democratic framework envisioned by Thomas Hooker. 

Meanwhile, what of Saybrook? By the early 1640s, the English lords 
had lost interest in their claims and had, at least de facto, abandoned them. 
The only proprietor living at Saybrook was George Fenwick, who illegally 
and without consulting his partners sold the ownership of Saybrook to 
Connecticut in exchange for the privilege of exacting tolls on goods passing 
through the mouth of the Connecticut River. From the time of this agree- 


ment, in 1643-44, Connecticut assumed complete jurisdiction over Say- 

By 1662 fifteen towns had associated themselves in the Connecticut 
colony. Most of them were situated on the Connecticut River; the others 
were in the Fairfield-Stratford area to the southwest, on Long Island 
Sound, or eastward in the New London area. In addition, several townships 
on Long Island had joined Connecticut, including Southampton, Hunting- 
ton, and Oyster Bay. 

Completely separate from the Connecticut towns, for over a generation, 
was the Colony of New Haven. The founder of New Haven was the Rever- 
end John Davenport, who arrived in Boston from England with his follow- 
ers just in time to play a leading role in the persecution of Anne Hutchin- 
son. To Davenport, mirabile dictu, Massachusetts Bay was lax and soft 
and not nearly theocratic enough. And so the Reverend Mr. Davenport, 
along with the wealthy merchant Theophilus Eaton, founded New Haven 
as an independent town in the spring of 1638. The land was purchased 
from the Indians. Davenport and Eaton made sure that their ruling theoc- 
racy would be really oligarchic, without any of the Bay Colony's demo- 
cratic taint. In mid- 1639, they selected twelve men, who in turn chose 
seven men, to begin the church, and government, of the town. This com- 
mittee of seven had absolute power over admission of any member to the 
church, and only church members, of course, could vote in governmental 
elections. The result was that at the outset over one-half of the inhabitants 
of New Haven town were disfranchised, an achievement which Massa- 
chusetts took a score of years of growth and immigration to emulate. 

The laws of New Haven were expressly to be confined to the "laws 
of God," as interpreted by the ruling clique. The seven committeemen, 
known as the "pillars of the church," chose nine or more additional men to 
constitute the General Court of the town. This court elected a magistrate 
and four deputies who served as judges. There was no need for jury trial, 
as the answers were to be found by the judges in the Bible. The town's 
General Court was the sole "town meeting." In short, there was little for 
even the restricted voting list to vote about. 

The New Haven settlers soon founded other towns: in 1639, nearby 
Milford and Guilford on the coast, followed by Stamford, some distance 
to the southwest, in 1641. Milford, founded by Rev. Peter Prudden, was 
more democratic than the other towns. The rules on church membership 
and voting were relaxed, so that only less than one-fifth of the populace 
was disfranchised, and at least a handful of local leaders remained outside 
the church. A more rigid deviation from the New Haven norm character- 
ized the town of Guilford, founded by Rev. Henry Whitfield, a friend of 
Hooker and Fenwick. In Guilford, political privileges were restricted not 
simply to Puritan church members, but to members of Whitfield's own 


Stamford was settled in a manner completely different from the settling 
of other towns. New Haven had recently acquired a tract of land via one 
of the usual arbitrary purchases from the Indians. Anxious to settle the 
land, Davenport persuaded a group of dissidents in Wethersfield, Connect- 
icut, headed by Rev. Richard Denton, to found a settlement (Stamford) 
there. In return, Stamford would submit to the jurisdiction of New Haven, 
send deputies to New Haven's town court, and accept magistrates and 
officials chosen by the New Haven court. 

Another town settled by New Haven was Southold, in 1640, on the 
northeastern tip of Long Island. The tract had been purchased from some- 
one who had a dubious grant from the old Council for New England. 
On that tract Southold was founded by Rev. John Youngs. Again, New 
Haven retained jurisdiction. 

In 1643 these five towns — New Haven and its cluster of two (Stamford 
and Southold), and the two independent towns of Milford and Guilford — 
united to form the Colony of New Haven. The Frame of Government of 
the colony restricted suffrage in the same way as in the original New Haven 
town; indeed, each town's government was similar to New Haven's. Over 
each government was the central government of the colony. The approved 
church members — the freemen — elected the deputies from each town, a 
governor, and a court of magistrates; all of these constituted the unicam- 
eral General Court, which exercised the colony's legislative, executive, 
and judicial functions. The colony, however, was a loose confederation of 
towns, each town being autonomous in its own affairs. 

So entrenched was the original oligarchy that Theophilus Eaton had no 
difficulty in remaining magistrate of New Haven town and governor of 
the colony from the beginning until his death in 1658. 

Other towns added later to New Haven Colony were Branford, near 
New Haven, and Greenwich, as an addition to Stamford. No further foot- 
hold was gotten on Long Island; the towns there decided to join Connect- 
icut. The failure of Southampton, Huntington, and Oyster Bay to join New 
Haven Colony was a particularly bitter blow, since New Haven had helped 
finance their settlement. The Long Island towns, however, objected par- 
ticularly to New Haven's highly restrictive franchise. 

As we might expect, the theocratic rigors of New Haven Colony were 
severe indeed. Drunkenness and sexual misdeeds were not only outlawed, 
but regulated minutely by the authorities. Even card playing, dancing, and 
singing were partially prohibited, because they tended to corrupt the youth 
and were a "misspense of precious time." Smoking in public was pro- 
hibited. The laws were enforced with particular severity against the lower 
classes — servants and seamen especially. Punishment was inflicted by 
stocks, pillories, whipping, and imprisonment, and some persons were 
executed for the crime of adultery. In a typical sentence in New Haven 
town, Goodman Hunt and his wife were banished from the town because 
he allowed someone else to kiss Mrs. Hunt on a Sunday. 


New Haven did not turn out to be a flourishing colony, and much of the 
capital of the merchants was dissipated in unprofitable ventures. Not the 
least of these were the repeated and unsuccessful attempts to plant New 
Haven colonies far to the southwest, along the banks of the Delaware 

One trouble was that the Delaware already had settlements, and non- 
English ones at that. Sweden's New Sweden Company had planted a 
settlement at Fort Christina (Wilmington) in 1637, headed by the Dutch- 
man Peter Minuit. The Dutch established their own settlements on the 
river shortly thereafter. New Haven merchants organized the Delaware 
Company, and in 1640 their expedition, headed by Capt. George Lamber- 
ton and Capt. Nathaniel Turner, settled at Salem Creek, on the east bank 
of the river. Swedish and especially Dutch pressure against the colonists, 
added to the severe conditions, forced the closing of the settlement. Many 
years later, in the mid- 1650s, New Haven projected a much larger, better- 
organized settlement on the Delaware, but this too never materialized. 
New Haven was anxious for others to make war upon the Dutch, to oust 
them from the Delaware and pave the way for their own colonial expan- 
sion. Massachusetts, however, wisely refused to be persuaded to war upon 
the Dutch for New Haven's advantage, and the New Haveners were bit- 
terly disappointed when Cromwell made peace with Holland. 

Discontent against the tight oligarchic rule was manifest in the colony 
by the 1650s especially outside the town of New Haven. When war 
loomed against the Dutch in the mid-l650s, citizens of Stamford, Milford, 
and Southold demanded an extension of the highly restricted suffrage and 
the substitution of regular English law for the rigors of the "Bible Common- 
wealth." Robert Basset of Stamford was a particularly vocal dissident, 
attacking the government as tyrannical, and one under which justice 
could not possibly be obtained. The colony cracked down severely on all 
dissidents, hauling them into court and charging them with an attempt 
to change, undermine, and overthrow constituted authority, and with 
breaking their loyalty oaths by stirring up rebellion. All were convicted 
and heavily fined, and made haste to confess their sins. After this suppres- 
sion, loyalty oaths were more widely imposed upon the inhabitants. 
Even so, grumbling continued against the high taxes and heavy debts 
stemming from increased governmental expenses for schools, meeting- 
houses, watchhouses, etc., and there was widespread tax evasion in the 



The Seizure of Northern New England 

By the 1650s, then, five colonies were established in New England, as 
virtually self-governing entities: Massachusetts Bay and Plymouth in 
central New England, and Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Haven in 
the south. The estimated total population of these colonies in 1650 was: 
Plymouth, 1,500; Rhode Island, 800;* Connecticut and New Haven com- 
bined, 4,100; Massachusetts Bay, with twice as much as the others com- 
bined, 14,000. 

What, however, of northern New England — the region north of Massa- 
chusetts Bay? The first settlements there had been made by "unauthor- 
ized" private groups of fishermen. In 1621 a group settled at the mouth 
of the Piscataqua River, near the site of what is now Portsmouth, New 
Hampshire, on the Maine border. Two years later, another fishing group 
settled at Dover, up the bay from Portsmouth. More formal colonizing 
came later when, in August 1622, the Council for New England jointly 
granted to John Mason (a friend of the Duke of Buckingham, a favorite 
of King Charles I) and Sir Ferdinando Gorges all the land between the 
Merrimack and the Kennebec rivers (the former is now approximately at 
the New Hampshire — Massachusetts border, the latter is in western 
Maine). Small special subgrants of land were now made. In 1622 to 
David Thompson, who the following year founded the settlement of Rye 
(south of Portsmouth on the coast). In 1623 Christopher Levett received 

*Of the distribution of population in the Rhode Island settlements, the breakdown in 
1655 was approximately: Newport, 38 percent; Portsmouth, 29 percent; Providence, 17 
percent; Warwick, 16 percent. In short, two-thirds of the Rhode Islanders lived in Aquidneck 
and one-third on the mainland. 


a small grant and founded a settlement at the mouth of the Casco River 
(west of the Kennebec in Maine). And the following year John Oldham and 
Richard Vines settled Biddeford, on the south side of the Saco River, in 
what is now southern Maine. In 1629 Mason and Gorges agreed to divide 
their granted territory, Gorges obtaining all the land north of the Pisca- 
taqua, which he called Maine, and Mason all the land to the south, now 
called New Hampshire. In the early 1630s, Walter Neale founded 
two settlements on the Piscataqua, expanding Portsmouth further to the 
south, and adding the Rye settlement, and South Berwick on the north 
side. Gorges concentrated his colonizing in the area of York, a bit north 
of the border. 

By the mid-1630s, then, northern New England was split in two, with 
small settlements along the coast: Casco, Biddeford, South Berwick, and 
especially York in Maine; Portsmouth and Dover in New Hampshire. John 
Mason had every intention of becoming lord proprietor of New Hamp- 
shire. Asserting that all the land was his own, he gave orders to arrest or 
shoot any persons daring to hunt animals on "his" territory. Mason also in- 
tended to establish the Anglican church in New Hampshire and to outlaw 
Dissenters. Stern resistance by the populace thwarted his designs, and 
when Mason died at the end of 1635, the colonists rebelled and announced 
the vacating of Mason's claims. They declared Mason's lands appropriated, 
and from then on they refused to recognize the sovereignty of his heirs. 
New Hampshire territory was now, like Rhode Island, a vacuum for free 
and unhampered settlement. Two years later, Rev. John Wheelwright, 
the first Hutchinsonian to be expelled from Massachusetts, walked north- 
ward through the snows to found the town of Exeter, New Hampshire. 
Wheelwright and his followers drew up the Exeter Compact in founding 
the town; it was modeled after the original Mayflower Compact. More 
orthodox Puritans, sent from Massachusetts Bay shortly afterward, founded 
Hampton, in New Hampshire. 

Maine, however, was not that lucky with its proprietary feudal overlord. 
In 1639 Gorges obtained a royal charter that confirmed his position as pro- 
prietor and governor of Maine. Gorges sent his cousin Thomas Gorges to 
Maine to rule the colony, and he established a provincial court at York. 

But if New Hampshire territory was a vacuum, it was, again, a vacuum 
that invited seizure by the ambitious, expansionist Massachusetts power. 
Massachusetts not only was impelled by the territorial drive endemic to 
all states, but also was attracted by the rich prospect of timber, fur, and fish- 
ing resources in the north. Unlike Rhode Island, New Hampshire and 
Maine had no influential Puritan friends in England; indeed, Mason and 
Gorges had been royal favorites and the settlers were largely Anglican. 
Hence, when the Puritans came to power in England, northern New En- 
gland was looked upon as a ripe plum for Massachusetts' designs. 

The New Hampshire towns were the first to go. Hampton, founded as 
an outpost of Massachusetts Bay, had always been under its jurisdiction, 


and had been sending a representative to the Massachusetts General 
Court. The other towns, beginning with Dover, were appropriated by Mas- 
sachusetts during 1641-43, a circumstance forcing Reverend Mr. Wheel- 
wright to flee once more, this time to Maine. Also appropriated were 
scattered New Hampshire towns far to the west of the Piscataqua towns: 
Merrimack and Salisbury on the Merrimack River, and Haverhill far to the 

Fortunately, Massachusetts' rule over the New Hampshire towns was 
relatively enlightened — due partly to the religious diversity of the towns 
and the numerous Anglicans living there. A large measure of home rule 
was allowed; the towns governed their local affairs in town meetings and 
elected deputies to the General Court at Boston. Significantly, the New 
Hampshiremen were exempt from the church-membership qualification 
for voting, a qualification strictly enforced in Massachusetts proper. 

Massachusetts' grab of Maine came a decade later and encountered 
stiffer resistance. Gorges' death in 1647, coupled with the rise of Puritan- 
ism in England, left a vacuum in Maine. The three towns at the southern 
tip of Maine — York, Wells, and Kittery — attempted to form a free and in- 
dependent union like that in Rhode Island, but Massachusetts did not per- 
mit it to come to fruition. Ignoring an appeal by Maine to Parliament, 
Massachusetts seized the towns in 1652 and then proceeded to annex the 
Saco and Casco settlements as well. Fortunately, the Maine towns re- 
ceived the same home-rule privileges as the towns of New Hampshire. 
Thus, both New Hampshire and Maine had by the 1650s been swallowed 
up by Massachusetts Bay. 



Joint Action in New England: 
The Pequot War 

It was characteristic of the New England colonies that their first exer- 
cise in united action came in a joint slaughter of Indians; specifically, the 
Pequot War of 1636-37. The Pequots, who were the dominant tribe in the 
Connecticut area, had had difficulty with the Dutch in Connecticut and 
were therefore eager at first to welcome the English colonists. Unfortu- 
nately, Lt. William Holmes, commanding the first English settlement — 
the Plymouth expedition to Windsor — started off on the wrong foot; in late 
1633 he purchased the land from dissident sachems whom he had brought 
back with him, and who had been expelled by the Pequots. Another unfor- 
tunate incident was the murder by the Pequots of a drunken Virginian sea 
captain named Stone, in the summer of 1633, in the mistaken belief that 
he was Dutch. Yet, the following year, the Pequot grand sachem Sassacus 
made with Massachusetts Bay a treaty that amounted to surrender to 
white wishes: the English were to be allowed to settle in Connecticut, 
The murderers of Stone were also to be surrendered to the English, but the 
latter thoughtfully made no demands for enforcement of this provision. 

This peaceful state of affairs was disrupted by the murder of a prominent 
New England trader. In 1636, John Oldham was killed by the Block Island 
Indians on Block Island in the Atlantic Ocean east of Long Island. Now 
there were several things that characterized white treatment of the Indi- 
ans in North America: (1) Indian guilt was always treated as collective 
rather than individual and punishment was never limited to the actual in- 
dividual criminals; (2) the punishment was enormously greater than the 
original crime; (3) no careful distinctions were made between Indian 
tribes, the collective guilt being extended beyond the specific tribe in- 


volved; and (4) surprise attacks were used extensively to slaughter men, 
women, and children of the tribe. All these characteristics marked the 
white reaction to the murder of Oldham. In the first place, immediately 
after the death of Oldham, a party of whites under John Gallop shot at and 
rammed the unarmed Indian crew that had committed the crime, until 
all but four of the Indians were drowned. Of the four, two surrendered and 
one of them was promptly thrown overboard by Gallop. 

But this swift punishment of the actual criminals was of course thought 
insufficient. Governor Vane of Massachusetts Bay quickly outfitted the 
tough John Endecott with an armed troop to slaughter more Block Island 
Indians. Now the Block Islanders had nothing to do with the Pequots. But 
somehow even the relatively liberal Vane concluded a priori that the 
Pequots must be harboring some of the murderers and he ordered Endecott 
to include the Pequots in the rigors of collective "punishment." Specifi- 
cally, Endecott was instructed to massacre every male Indian on Block 
Island whether guilty or innocent of the crime, and to kidnap all the wo- 
men and children — in short, to depopulate Block Island of native Indians. He 
also instructed to demand from them a thousand fathoms of wampum 
and to seize a few Pequot children as hostages for their good behavior. 

Endecott found that he could not catch the Block Island Indians, but he 
partially compensated by burning all their crops and wigwams and by de- 
stroying their property. Returning from the island, he could not persuade 
the supposedly ferocious Pequots to fight, but he nevertheless managed to 
kill some of them and to burn many Pequot crops and wigwams. 

The Pequots, understandably rather bitter at this undeserved plunder, 
urged the Narragansett Indians, the leading tribe in Rhode Island, to join 
with them in warring against the white invaders. The Narragansetts, 
however, were very friendly with Roger Williams and, under his influ- 
ence, refused the offer (for which friendship, as we have seen, the Narra- 
gansett grand sachem was later murdered by Massachusetts). The Pequot 
reprisal was to besiege Fort Saybrook, whose leader, Lt. Lyon Gardiner, 
had warned the exuberant Endecott in his plunder that "you come hither 
to raise these wasps about my ears, and then you will take wings and flee 
away." Still, the situation was not yet out of hand, as only the military had 
been attacked, and not the settlers. But then, in the spring of 1637, amidst 
this explosive situation, the settlers at Wethersfield violated a solemn 
agreement they had made with a friendly chief named Sequin. When 
they bought the land from Sequin, they agreed to allow him to remain 
within the town limits. But now Wethersfield violated the agreement 
and expelled Sequin from the town. For the Pequots this was the last 
straw and they attacked Wethersfield and killed some of the inhabitants. 

In the minds of the white men of that era, the deaths of a few white 
settlers were enough to justify the immediate extermination of an en- 
tire Indian nation — and it was precisely on such a course that the New En- 
gland colonies now embarked. The first meeting of the General Court of 


Connecticut in May resolved upon an "offensive war against the Pequot," 
and ninety men were conscripted from the three river towns under the 
command of Capt. John Mason (no relation to the Mason of New Hamp- 
shire). Joined by some dissident Indians, Mason launched a sneak attack 
on the Pequot camp, surrounding and burning the entire camp and slaugh- 
tering some six hundred Indians, the bulk of them old men, women, and 

The remnant of the Pequot tribe, under Sassacus, attempted to flee 
westward, but they were now pursued by a combined force of Mason's 
troops and over a hundred men from Massachusetts and Plymouth. Strag- 
glers from the Pequots were slaughtered; of over a hundred Pequot men, 
women, and children hiding in a swamp, all the men were murdered in 
cold blood by the Massachusetts troop. Two Pequots, spared when they 
promised to take the whites to Sassacus, were murdered when they 
failed to do so. The Pequot women were all either turned over to the un- 
gracious hands of the dissident Indians, or sold into slavery in Massachu- 
setts. Finally, the remainder of the Pequots were trapped in a swamp 
near the site of Fairfield. The men were wiped out and the women sold 
into slavery, in which, not making successful slaves, they died soon after. 
Roger Williams' pleas to Massachusetts for mercy for the Pequot prisoners 
were unheeded — despite his great service in keeping the Narragansetts 
out of the war. As for Sassacus, he managed to escape across the Hudson, 
but there the Mohawks — one of the Iroquois tribes allied to the Dutch and 
English — killed him and sent his scalp back to Boston as a token of their 
friendship with the English. The extermination of the Pequot people had 
been successfully accomplished. 



The New England Confederation 

The experience of the Puritan colonies in the joint aggression against the 
Pequots, added to the continuing drive of Massachusetts Bay for domina- 
tion over its neighbors, led to a more formal bond between them. 

As early as 1634 Massachusetts had moved in to establish control over a 
wholly Pilgrim trading post on the Kennebec in Maine. It arrested a 
Plymouth magistrate there and forced Plymouth leaders to go to Boston to 
settle the matter. Similarly, the following year Massachusetts forced Pil- 
grims out of land that they had settled on the Connecticut River, to permit 
Bay settlers to occupy the land. Massachusetts also pressed claims for large 
portions of Connecticut and Plymouth territory, and we have seen its de- 
signs on Rhode Island. 

The first discussion of a confederation between the Puritan colonies 
occurred at the synod of August-September 1637 for the condemnation of 
Anne Hutchinson. The synod was attended by ministers from Connecticut 
and Massachusetts. Governor Winthrop of Massachusetts suggested to the 
Connecticut ministers that the synod become a regular annual meeting 
of the ministers of both areas because of their mutual "distaste for unau- 
thorized interpretation." In the spring of 1638 Roger Ludlow, an advocate 
of strong government in Connecticut, inquired further about a confedera- 
tion, as did John Davenport and Theophilus Eaton of New Haven. Connect- 
icut sent John Haynes to Massachusetts to confer on the matter, but Mas- 
sachusetts insisted on control of the upper Connecticut Valley about Spring- 
field — crucial to the fur trade — which Connecticut refused to acknowledge. 
Massachusetts proposed setting up a commission with absolute power to 
settle all disputes between the colonies, and without reference to the 


separate assemblies. In this way, Massachusetts hoped to gain control of 
the sister colonies, deeming it far easier to dominate a group of magis- 
trates than the elected General Courts of the various colonies. But Thomas 
Hooker pointed out that the terms proposed by Massachusetts exceeded 
the "limits of that equity which is to be looked at in all combinations of free 
states/' To prevent oligarchic control by the joint magistrates of the colo- 
nies, Hooker insisted that any such commissioners be elected. 

The confederation proposed at this time therefore proved abortive. The 
joint Pequot War effort and the growing united interest in preventing 
asylum from being granted to runaway indentured servants, however, 
caused the Puritan colonies to draw closer together. Despite this, Massa- 
chusetts continued its aggressive expansion, seizing, as we have seen, 
the New Hampshire settlements. Similarly, Connecticut and New Haven 
were settling in territory claimed arbitrarily by the Dutch and liked the 
idea of a confederation for defending it. Furthermore, the civil strife in En- 
gland was making the New England colonies even more self-governing 
than before and giving them an opportunity to carry more weight by acting 

Finally, in the fall of 1642 Plymouth proposed a confederation provided 
that the General Court of each colony ratify all agreements. Connecticut 
also agreed to send delegates to a meeting in the spring, quickly making 
sure that Saybrook was incorporated within its realm before the confeder- 
ation was formed. In May 1643 Massachusetts, Connecticut, Plymouth, 
and New Haven colonies agreed to form the "Confederation of the United 
Colonies of New England." 

The Articles of Confederation declared its purpose to be "a firm and per- 
petual league of friendship, for offense and defense . . . both for preserving 
and propagating the truths of the Gospel and for their mutual safety and 
welfare." The General Court of each colony was to elect two commission- 
ers to meet once a year and on special occasions. These eight commission- 
ers had the power to declare war, make peace, and allocate military ex- 
penses among the colonies in proportion to their population. But approval 
of each colony's General Court was needed to levy the tax. For commission- 
ers to reach any decision whatever required an affirmative vote of six of 
the eight. The commissioners were also to make recommendations to the 
specific colonies, settle boundary disputes, and provide for the capture of 
fugitives — for example, runaway servants. There was no executive; annu- 
ally one of the commissioners was chosen president, and he served merely 
as moderator of the proceedings. All the commissioners had to be Puritan 
church members. 

No colony was bound by the commissioners' decisions unless its General 
Court approved. Thus each colony could nullify any decisions affecting it, and 
insure against aggrandizement by the new centralized power. 

One important provision of the confederation was to guarantee the in- 
dependence and given territory of each member colony. For this reason, 


Massachusetts moved to reject a proposal to admit the Maine settle- 
ments to the confederation, since Massachusetts was preparing to confis- 
cate them. Rhode Island was not admitted for similar reasons, and also be- 
cause its individualistic policies were a standing reproach to the other 
colonies. Thus, Rhode Island's continual refusal to coerce the return of fu- 
gitives and runaway servants from the other colonies — the colony was pre- 
serving itself as a haven for the oppressed — was itself a vital blow to the 
structure of caste and persecution in the other New England colonies. 
Hence, Rhode Island's application for admission in 1648 was rejected un- 
less it agreed to become part of Massachusetts Bay — a condition that Rhode 
Island, of course, angrily rejected. 

This first confederation of colonies in the New World was modeled on 
the United Provinces of the Netherlands, which had been established by 
the Union of Utrecht in 1579. The United Provinces was a loose confedera- 
tion of seven provinces for purposes of defense. Deputies were selected by 
the autonomous provinces, each of which had to approve the decisions of the 
union for it to be bound by the union's actions. Many New Englanders had 
experienced the workings of such a confederation during their previous 
exile in the Netherlands. 

From the start, the commissioners were clearly extensions of the ruling 
magistracy of the colonies. First president of the confederation was Gov- 
ernor John Winthrop, and his sons and grandsons became commissioners 
as well as magistrates in Massachusetts and Connecticut. The same was 
true for the other Massachusetts signatory of the Articles of Confederation, 
Thomas Dudley; he and his sons-in-law were to become governors and 
commissioners. Similarly Theophilus Eaton, governor and commissioner 
from New Haven; his sons-in-law became magistrates and commission- 
ers from New Haven and Connecticut. 

The requirement that commissioners belong to the Puritan church soon 
bore fruit. One of their earliest proposals, in 1646, was in answer to a re- 
quest of Massachusetts for a meeting of the elders of the New England 
churches "to consider some confession of doctrine and discipline with solid 
grounds to be approved by the churches." After the Westminster Assembly 
in England adopted the Westminster Confession of Faith (1647), which 
espoused presbyterianism, a synod was held at Cambridge, Massachu- 
setts, in 1648, the same year in which the Cambridge Platform of the 
church was issued. The Platform accepted the Westminster Confession 
and provided that "idolatry, blasphemy, venting corruption and pernicious 
opinions are to be restrained and punished by the civil authority," and "if 
any church one or more shall grow schismatical, rending itself from the 
communion of other churches, or shall walk incorrigibly or obstinately in 
any corrupt way of their own, contrary to the rule of the Word; in such case, 
the Magistrate is to put forth his coercive power, as the matter shall re- 
quire." The Massachusetts path of persecution had been confirmed by the 


United Colonies. The commissioners of the confederation also levied an 
annual contribution on the towns of the colonies for the support of Harvard 

After the massacre of the Pequots, the Narragansetts became the main 
body of Indians in southern New England. We have seen how Massachu- 
setts and the United Colonies tried to take over Warwick and the Narra- 
gansetts, only to be foiled by the submission of the Narragansetts to En- 
gland through Samuell Gorton. The United Colonies, however, struggled 
hard to conquer the Narragansetts. In 1645 Miles Standish led a confedera- 
tion force into Rhode Island to beat the Narragansett Indians into a "sober 
temper." Foiled by Roger Williams' negotiation of peace and neutrality 
with the Indians, the enraged Standish threatened to seize any settler 
helping the Indians. 

The confederation scarcely fulfilled the high hopes of its founders, and 
largely because of continuing difficulties between Massachusetts and its 
fellow colonies, with Massachusetts aggressively pressing its claims 
against the others. Thus, Massachusetts and Connecticut quarreled over 
the land taken from the Pequots. For years, Massachusetts claimed the 
lands, granting large tracts to Governor Winthrop's son John Jr., an assist- 
ant of the colony. Young Winthrop was even granted governmental power 
over his plantation. Finally, after the senior Winthrop's death in 1649, his 
son accepted Connecticut jurisdiction and was soon to become a long-term 
governor of his adopted colony. A more important rift occurred over Spring- 
field, the northernmost settlement on the Connecticut River. Geographi- 
cally one of the Connecticut towns, Springfield, as the uppermost town on 
the river, was critically important in the beaver trade with the Indians. 
In the late 1640s, Connecticut levied a river tax on the various towns to fi- 
nance its hastily purchased Fort Saybrook. Springfield, led by its virtual ma- 
norial lord, William Pynchon, refused to pay the tax, pointing out that it had 
joined Massachusetts upon the creation of the New England Confedera- 
tion, and was therefore outside Connecticut's jurisdiction. Massachusetts 
had appointed Pynchon as chief judge and magistrate; he ruled Springfield, 
and had a right of appeal to the court of assistants of the colony at Boston. To 
strengthen its claim on Springfield, Massachusetts now accepted depu- 
ties from the town to its General Court. Massachusetts of course backed 
Springfield's refusal to pay and persisted in defying the confederation 
agreement to submit all such disputes to arbitration. Massachusetts also 
retaliated by taxing products of the other New England colonies entering 
Boston. For the remainder of the century, Springfield continued as a virtu- 
ally independent republic, loosely under Massachusetts, and governed by 
Pynchon and his son John. Springfield, indeed, set up its own frontier 
trading posts at such new settlements as Westfield, Hadley, and North- 

Massachusetts also took the lead in aggressive actions of the United Colo- 


nies against other English colonies — for example, breaking off trade with 
Virginia, Bermuda, and Barbados for daring to continue their support of the 
royalist cause. 

Most of the friction between Massachusetts and the other colonies oc- 
curred over acts of imperial aggression by one or the other against their 
French neighbors to the north or the Dutch to the south. The first confronta- 
tion occurred with the French. After the Virginians had sacked the French 
Jesuit settlement at Port Royal in 1613, the French created the Company 
of New France, with Cardinal Richelieu, chief minister to Louis XIII, as 
president. Richelieu granted his own company feudal rule of the land and 
a monopoly of the fur trade. England conquered the Acadian and some 
other Canadian settlements from France in the war of 1627-29, but these 
areas were restored in 1632 in return for a large dowry from the French 
bride of the English king Charles I. 

By 1643 a virtual war had broken out between two French claimants to 
the rich prize of Acadia — especially to the fur monopoly and the feudal ten- 
ure. The losing claimant, Claude de la Tour, appeared at Boston in 1643, and 
Governor Winthrop and a few of the ruling oligarchs decided to give de la 
Tour secret support for an expedition against the French governor. In de- 
fiance of legality this crucial matter was referred neither to the General 
Court nor to the commissioners of the new Confederation of the United 
Colonies. Winthrop and the others did not submit the issue because they 
knew that this rash interference in French affairs would have been re- 
jected. The purpose of the affair was to have a clique of Boston merchants 
join in plunder, and gain a share in the fisheries and the tempting Acadian 
fur monopoly. 

The ignominious failure of the expedition swelled the rising opposition 
to the scheme in Massachusetts — an opposition led by the competing mer- 
chants from Salem and other outlying towns — and Winthrop was tempo- 
rarily deposed in the 1644 election. Leader of the opposition to the Acadian 
adventure was Richard Saltonstall, a merchant of Ipswich, north of Salem. 
Still, the raiders did manage to plunder the plantation of the French gover- 
nor, Charles d'Aulnay, and to bring back the booty to be sold at auction in 
Boston. The proceeds of the auction were divided among the raiders. The 
new governor, John Endecott, however, proclaimed the neutrality of Mas- 
sachusetts in the intra-French war and offered d'Aulnay satisfaction. The 
commissioners of the United Colonies met in the fall of 1644 and sternly 
forbade all such secret plundering expeditions in the future. Finally, Mas- 
sachusetts signed the Treaty of Boston with d'Aulnay in the fall of 1644, pro- 
viding that the English in Massachusetts and the French in Acadia have a 
right to trade freely with each other and with any other peoples, and also 
providing that any disputes between the two parties be settled by peaceful 

In the conflicts with the Dutch, on the other hand, it was the southern 
New England colonies that yearned to plunder the Dutch, and it was Mas- 


sachusetts that held back from a war in which it was not economically 

Connecticut and New Haven were early embroiled in problems with 
the Dutch. The original Dutch fort at Hartford was surrounded by English 
settlers, and the English pressed on to eastern Long Island. Such settle- 
ment was in itself highly legitimate, but this was not true of the accompa- 
nying political claims for governing these areas. New Haven also clashed 
with the Dutch and Swedes in the Delaware settlements, and was bitter 
not only at the Swedish and Dutch fur monopoly, but also at the Dutch for 
granting of asylum to runaway servants of the New Haven colonists. 

The governor of Dutch New Netherland, Peter Stuyvesant, and the com- 
missioners of the United Colonies, concluded the Treaty of Hartford in 
1650, supposedly settling the large part of the disputes between them. The 
English were granted sovereignty over all land east of Greenwich, Con- 
necticut, except for Fort Good Hope (Hartford), and over all of Long Island 
east of Oyster Bay. England, however, refused to ratify the treaty or to rec- 
ognize any Dutch territory in America, and within a year, New Haven — 
backed by the United Colonies — attempted further expansion on the Del- 
aware. What is more, the commissioners played a role in the passage of 
the anti-Dutch Navigation Act of 1651 in the English Parliament. 

The following year, Cromwell launched his war of aggression against Hol- 
land, and New Haven and Connecticut whooped for war in earnest. They 
even stirred up false rumors of an alleged plot by Stuyvesant to incite the 
Indians to attack. Violating the treaty of 1650, Connecticut seized the 
Dutch fort at Hartford and forcibly incorporated the territory. And even 
Aquidneck, as we have seen, engaged in piracy against Dutch shipping. 
Furthermore, the English settlers in the New Netherland portion of Long 
Island — in the towns of Oyster Bay, Hempstead, Flushing, Jamaica, New- 
town, and Gravesend — formed their own independent union. 

Connecticut and New Haven, yearning for war, swung all but one of the 
commissioners to declare war against the Dutch, but Massachusetts coolly 
vetoed the scheme. Massachusetts asserted in its own curious but conven- 
ient interpretation of the Articles of Confederation, that the commission- 
ers had no power to declare an offensive war. However, the Bay Colony 
was on completely sound legal ground in insisting on its right of nullifica- 
tion of the war decision as applied to itself. The Dutch model of the confed- 
eration, incidentally, had also stressed this right of nullification by each 
constituent province. 

Why did Massachusetts balk at war? For one thing, it had no desire to 
put up two-thirds of the forces and the bulk of the finances for a war in 
which it could not gain. In fact, any Connecticut or New Haven accession 
to the lucrative Dutch fur trade with the Iroquois might well have been det- 
rimental to Massachusetts' trading interests. 

Massachusetts was successful in blocking the war and the English war 
with the Dutch ended in 1654 without New England's entering the fray. 


Ironically, a British fleet, sent to America to act against the Dutch, arrived 
after the end of the war; thwarted, it decided not to waste its preparations 
and it promptly seized Acadia from the French. It is no coincidence that the 
leader of the Massachusetts force that helped conquer Acadia was Major 
Robert Sedgwick, a prominent Boston fish merchant, eager to obtain ac- 
cess to the Acadian fisheries. 



Suppressing Heresy: 
Massachusetts Persecutes the Quakers 

After its persecution of the Hutchinsonians and the Gortonites, Massa- 
chusetts continued on its path of suppressing all deviations from the Puri- 
tan norm. The next important case was that of Dr. Robert Child. As early as 
1644 a growing number of people subjected to oligarchic Puritan rule had 
found expression in an unsuccessful petition whose purpose was to widen 
the highly restricted civil privileges of nonmembers of the Puritan church. 
Two years later, in May 1646, Dr. Robert Child, a Presbyterian minister 
and graduate of the University of Padua, and Samuel Maverick, a very 
wealthy founder of the colony, headed a petition of seven important men 
of the colony protesting existing rule. The petition noted that there were 
many thousands of residents of Massachusetts who were disfranchised 
even though they were taxpayers and subject to all the levies and duties of 
the colony. The signers of the petition were leading merchants and prop- 
erty owners; they included Presbyterians, Anglicans, and men of diverse 
religious and political views, united only by their desire for a freer society. 

The petitioners asked that Anglicans and Presbyterians either be admit- 
ted to church membership or be allowed to establish churches of their own. 
They also urged that "civil liberty and freedom" be speedily granted to all 
Englishmen, and that they no longer be compelled to attend Puritan ser- 
vice under penalty of a heavy fine. As Englishmen, they deserved to be 
treated "equal to the rest of their countrymen, and as all freeborn enjoy in 
our native country." The petition also attacked the ruling "overgreedy 
spirit of arbitrary power" and the suppression of liberty in Massachusetts 
Bay — like "illegal commitments, unjust imprisonments, taxes . . . unjusti- 


fiable presses, undue fines, immeasurable expenses . . . non-certainty of 
all things . . . whether lives, liberties, or estates." 

The Child petition was denounced from numerous Puritan pulpits as 
sedition, "full of malignancy, subversive both to church and common- 
wealth." Winthrop, Thomas Dudley, and the General Court also angrily re- 
jected the petition, and the signers were taken into court, heavily fined, 
and warned "to be quiet and to meddle with your own business" — an in- 
junction which the Puritan oligarchy itself had never been conspicuous for 
heeding. When the petitioners had the audacity to appeal to Parliament to 
attain in Massachusetts the degree of freedom enjoyed in the home coun- 
try, Winthrop had them fined and imprisoned for criticizing and opposing 
the government. When Child and some of the others attempted to leave, 
to present their case to England, they were seized, searched, and impris- 

Child managed to escape to England, but proved to be the unfortunate 
victim of poor timing. Having made his appeal originally to a predomi- 
nantly Presbyterian — and therefore presumptively sympathetic — Parlia- 
ment, Child's case now came before a body dominated by Cromwell and 
his Independents, far more sympathetic to Massachusetts Bay. Further- 
more, Child made the mistake of getting involved in an altercation with 
a Massachusetts Puritan then influential in England. Child was arrested 
by Parliament and was freed only on a written promise never to speak 
badly of New England again. 

The Child opposition had thus been quickly and efficiently suppressed by 
Massachusetts, even though it had the support of a large part of the popula- 
tion of the colony. But Massachusetts was soon to reach the turning point 
in its previously unchecked highroad of persecution; despite a frenzy of 
zeal, it was never able to suppress the determined and courageous 
Quakers — the individualist champions of the inner light and the next 
great wave of heretics in the colony. 

The first Quakers to arrive in America came to Boston in July 1656. They 
were two Englishwomen, Ann Austin and Mary Fisher. Although no law 
had yet been passed in Massachusetts prohibiting the arrival of Quakers, 
the two women were immediately imprisoned and searched carefully 
for "witch-marks." Deputy Governor Richard Bellingham sent officers to 
the ship, searched the ladies' baggage, seized their stock of Quaker liter- 
ature, and had it summarily burned. The women were imprisoned for five 
weeks, during which time no one was allowed to visit or speak to them. 
No light or writing material was allowed in their cell, and the prisoners 
were almost starved to death. At the end of this ordeal, they were shipped 
back to Barbados. 

Bellingham denounced the two Quakers as heretics, transgressors with 
"very dangerous, heretical, and blasphemous opinions" and "corrupt, heret- 
ical, and blasphemous doctrines." Bellingham's litmus test for deciding if 
the ladies were Quakers was brusque indeed; one of them happened to 


say "thee," whereupon Bellingham declared that "he needed no more; 
now he knew they were Quakers." 

Governor Endecott's only criticism of Bellingham's treatment of the two 
Quaker ladies was to say that if he had been present, the prisoners also 
would have been "well whipped." 

A few days after the Austin-Fisher "threat" had been disposed of, nine 
more Quakers arrived in Boston. They were summarily arrested, impris- 
oned for eight weeks, and then shipped back; the master of the ship that 
brought them was also jailed, no doubt as an instructive moral lesson to 
future ship captains. If the existence of the two ladies had driven the Mas- 
sachusetts authorities to fury, this was nothing compared to the effects of 
the new goad. Governor Endecott, repeatedly haranguing the hapless pris- 
oners, kept threatening to hang them; for example: "Take heed ye break 
not our ecclesiastical laws for then ye are sure to stretch by a halter." Since 
it was very difficult for a Puritan in good standing, let alone a Quaker, not 
to break some ecclesiastical law, the halter was close indeed. It is no won- 
der that Mary Prince, one of the prisoners, was impelled to denounce En- 
decott as a "vile oppressor" and "tyrant," and the Massachusetts ministers 
as "hirelings" and "Baal's priests." At their trial the Quakers had the im- 
pudence to ask for a copy of the laws against them, which request En- 
decott angrily refused — causing a murmur of sympathy in the audience for 
the prisoners. For, it was openly asked, "How shall they know when they 

From this point on, the persecution of Quakers was savage and fanatical, 
but the determination of the Quakers to keep coming and spreading their 
Gospel remained remarkably steadfast. In October the General Court 
passed a law providing for the fining of any shipmaster bringing a known 
Quaker to Massachusetts; the Quaker was to be imprisoned, severely 
whipped, "kept consistently to work" and not permitted to speak to any- 
one. Any existing resident of Massachusetts who dared defend any Quaker 
opinion was to be fined and banished on the third offense; any criticism of 
a magistrate or minister was to be met with a whipping and a heavy fine. 
Thus, not only the Quakers but anyone presuming to defend their rights or 
to criticize the brutally repressive acts of the authorities was to be dealt 
with as a criminal. An early example was Nicholas Upshall, a weak old 
man who had bribed the jailer to give Ann Austin and Mary Fisher some 
food while they were starving in prison. Upshall protested against the op- 
pressive anti-Quaker law, and for this offense he was fined, imprisoned, 
and banished from the colony. From Plymouth, old Upshall was forced to 
walk to Rhode Island in the winter snows. The old man was given shelter 
by an Indian who exclaimed: "What a God have the English who deal so 
with one another about the worship of their God!" Upshall finally found 
sanctuary in Warwick. 

In succeeding years, Quakers were repeatedly stripped (to be searched 
for witch marks) and whipped, the ears of the men were cut off, and mere 


attendance at a Quaker meeting was deemed by the authorities as auto- 
matic proof of Quaker belief. In 1661 the Cart and Whip Act decreed that 
all Quakers, men and especially women, were to be stripped, tied to a 
cart's tail, branded on the left shoulder, and then whipped through every 
town until they had reached the borders of the colony. 

Later apologists for Massachusetts Bay have maintained that all this 
was nothing more than a perhaps overzealous means of enforcing immi- 
gration restrictions. Among other things, this overlooks the fact that the 
persecutions were conducted as much against "native" converts to Quaker- 
ism as against new arrivals. Thus the Southwick family in Salem, converts 
to Quakerism, were repeatedly persecuted. Edward Batter, the treasurer 
of Salem and indefatigable Quaker hunter, had two children of Lawrence 
Southwick sold into servitude to Virginia and Barbados, in order to satisfy 
fines levied for aiding the Quakers. 

Massachusetts lost no time after the first Quaker arrivals in urging the 
United Colonies to pass a general regulation prohibiting any "such pests" 
from being admitted into any New England colony. Generally, the sister 
colonies enthusiastically complied. New Haven, as we might imagine, 
was especially eager, and its torture methods were a match for Massa- 
chusetts Bay's. Plymouth and Connecticut followed some distance behind. 
In 1658 the commissioners of the United Colonies urged the several col- 
onies to decree the death penalty for all Quakers who dared return after 
banishment. Only Massachusetts, however, followed this advice. Plym- 
outh, though not passing the death penalty, was hardly reluctant to per- 
secute the Quakers, and one of its magistrates was deposed for being will- 
ing to tolerate the Friends. Most reluctant was Connecticut, Governor 
Winthrop virtually begging the Massachusetts magistrates not to enforce 
the death penalty. Connecticut did, however, outlaw heresy, but left it to 
the magistrates or elders to determine if heresy existed, and if so, what 
punishment was to be meted out. 

Of all the New England colonies, we might expect that if any gave 
haven to the Quakers it would be doughty little Rhode Island, and this was 
the case. Rhode Island was happy to receive the Quakers, the first of whom 
arrived at Newport in 1657. On the Quakers' arrival, the commissioners of 
the United Colonies immediately wrote to the Rhode Island government, 
demanding that it follow the "prudent" course of Massachusetts and ban- 
ish all the present Quakers and prevent any new arrivals, so that this "dev- 
ilish contagion" might not spread. Finally, the commissioners darkly 
threatened intervention if Rhode Island failed to comply. Interestingly, 
Massachusetts also warned that the Quakers were not only seditious but 
also "anarchistic"; their doctrines "turned the hearts of the people from 
their subjection to government." 

Rhode Island's reply reasserted its religious freedom: "As concerning 
these Quakers ... we have no law among us, whereby to punish any for only 
declaring by words, etc., their minds and understandings concerning the 


things and ways of God. . . ." The General Assembly of Rhode Island also re- 
plied that freedom of conscience was the keystone of their charter, "which 
freedom we still prize as the greatest happiness that men can possess in 
this world." The Assembly pointedly added that Quakers were being al- 
lowed their freedom in England. The United Colonies answered by 
threatening to embargo all trade to and from Rhode Island. 

Quakerism found in Rhode Island not only a refuge, but also a ripe field 
for conversion. Its individualism made a deep impress on the colony, and 
in a decade it had even secured a majority. The Newport leaders — William 
Coddington and Nicholas Easton, and others — were converted and Quaker- 
ism completely dominated that town. The redoubtable Catherine Scott 
and many others of the numerous Baptists were now converted to the 
Quaker faith. William Dyer, one of the leading Quakers, soon became the 
secretary of Rhode Island. 

As Massachusetts had fearfully predicted, the Quakers used Rhode Island 
as the base of their missionary operations in Massachusetts. As the Bay 
Colony had warned in its message to Rhode Island, the Quakers were using 
the base to "creep in amongst us" and to "infuse and spread their accursed 

The Quaker influx was met, predictably, by an accelerating ferocity. The 
Puritan divines were the zealous theoreticians of the persecution. The 
Reverend Urian Oakes denounced the Quaker principle of liberty of con- 
science as a "liberty of perdition" and "the firstborn of all abominations." 
And just as many former Hutchinsonians were becoming Quakers, so the 
Massachusetts campaign of suppression drew echoes of the old Hutchin- 
sonian battles. In the forefront of the Quaker hunt was none other than 
the fiery Rev. John Wilson, leading persecutor of Anne Hutchinson. Wilson 
thundered in a typical sermon that "he would carry fire in one hand and 
faggots in the other, to burn all the Quakers in the world." 

After the expulsion of old Nicholas Upshall, the next important Quaker 
case was Mary Dyer, wife of the secretary of Rhode Island. Two decades 
earlier, the beautiful young Mary had walked down the aisle with Anne 
Hutchinson when Anne was condemned. Now a determined Quaker, 
Mary arrived in Massachusetts and was quickly banished to Rhode Island. 
Mary Clark, entering Massachusetts on her Quaker mission, was given 
twenty lashes "laid on with fury," was imprisoned for three months, and 
then banished in the snows of midwinter. Yet, alarming Quaker inroads 
were being made in Salem, led by Christopher Holder and John Copeland, 
who were seized by the authorities and lashed very severely. Thomas Har- 
ris, entering from Rhode Island, was denounced by the deputy governor of 
Massachusetts as deserving of being hanged, and was lashed unmercifully 
before being expelled. 

The culmination of this first, pre-death-penalty phase of the Quaker per- 
secutions was the torture of the venerable William Brend. Brend had 
landed at Newport in 1657 and became one of the leading Quakers in 


Rhode Island. He went to Salem in 1658. Along with other Quakers, Brend 
was imprisoned. At this point, the Quakers put into practice the now fa- 
mous technique of nonviolent resistance, of refusing to cooperate with in- 
justice, of refusing to grant to the oppressor the sanction of the victim. 
Commanded to work in prison, Brend and the others refused. To force 
them into submission, the authorities proceeded to a frenzy of torture 
against Brend. The old man was kept four days without food, then whipped 
ten lashes, starved again, then put into irons and starved for over a day, and 
finally given 117 blows with a pitched rope. And yet, despite this fever 
pitch of brutality, the weak and old Brend heroically refused to yield. 

The people of Massachusetts had been getting increasingly restive at 
the reign of terror against the peaceful Quakers, but this treatment was, 
for many, too much to bear. Protests swelled; a large and angry crowd gath- 
ered outside the jail and began to storm the building, calling for the pun- 
ishment of the jailer. At this point, the incipient revolt was quieted by 
the eminent theoretician of the anti-Quaker terror, Rev. John Norton. 
Stretching a metaphor, Norton declaimed: "William Brend endeavored to 
beat our gospel ordinances black and blue, and if he was beaten black and 
blue, it was just upon him." 

Soon, the Massachusetts authorities pressed on to mutilation of the 
Quakers. When in the summer of 1658 Christopher Holder and John Cope- 
land were arrested, the magistrates ordered the cutting off of one ear each. 
Governor Endecott, however, was less successful at besting the Quakers at 
public argument than in using his superior force to mutilate them. Ende- 
cott denounced the Quakers for their custom of keeping their hats on in 
court and for addressing him by name instead of by title, and thus show- 
ing contempt for constituted authority. The Quakers quickly replied that 
the only honor due to all men is love, and that the Bible never required 
people to take off their hats before magistrates. 

Witness to the mutilation of her friends was none other than Catherine 
Scott, the sister of Anne Hutchinson and future mother-in-law of Holder. 
For making critical comments at the execution, Mrs. Scott herself was 
seized and given ten lashes, and then warned by Endecott that she might 
be hanged if she returned: "We shall be as ready to take away your lives as 
you will be to lay them down." 

Since even mutilation could not stop the intrepid Quaker missionaries, 
the Massachusetts authorities decided to accelerate further their cam- 
paign of terror. After the Brend case, the Reverend Mr. Norton, the other 
divines, and the magistrates, decided to react to the popular resistance by 
decreeing the death penalty should any Quaker return after banishment. 
Norton instigated a petition signed by twenty-five citizens, urging banish- 
ment for all Quakers and death upon return, for the second "offense" of 
being a Quaker in Massachusetts. Resisting the oligarchy of magistrates 
and divines was the more democratic House of Deputies, which finally 
consented to the new law in October, by a hairline majority of one. To 


make sure that the death penalty would be enforced without shilly-shally- 
ing, the bill removed the right of a trial by jury, and left Quaker cases to the 
not too tender mercies of a court of three magistrates, two of whom would 
suffice for imposing the death penalty. 

To defend the new law against rising popular opposition the General 
Court appointed the colony's leading divine, and the foremost champion 
of the Quaker hunt, Reverend John Norton, to write its definitive apologia. 
The following year, 1659, Norton published his findings in The Heart of 
New England Rent at the Blasphemies of the Present Generation — a re- 
vealing title. Norton warned that the Quaker claim of individual divine 
inspiration made the authority of ministers and magistrates equally un- 
necessary — thus challenging the basic rule of church and state. And the 
temptation held out by the prospect of such overthrow was bringing many 
converts to the Quaker creed. Religious liberty, to Norton, was simply "a lib- 
erty to blaspheme, a liberty to tell lies in the name of the Lord." Norton 
concluded that the Bible pointed to the proper path: "And he that blas- 
phemeth the name of the Lord, he shall surely be put to death, and all the 
congregation shall certainly stone him." 

With the persecution of the Quakers mounting to a critical pitch, the 
stage was now set for the tragic climax: murder. No one had long to wait. 
Defying the death penalty threat, Mary Dyer returned to Boston and was 
imprisoned, and was there joined by William Robinson, a merchant from 
London, and Marmaduke Stevenson, two Quakers who had crossed the 
border from Rhode Island. The three were released and ordered again to 
leave the colony on pain of death. Robinson and Stevenson refused to bow 
to oppression and remained. Mary left but returned again to comfort the 
imprisoned Christopher Holder. 

Seized again, the three defiant Quakers were hauled into court in Oc- 
tober 1659. Robinson asked permission to read a statement explaining 
their defiance of Massachusetts law but the fiery Governor Endecott thun- 
dered: "You shall not read it!" Endecott charged that "neither whipping nor 
cutting off ears, nor banishment upon pain of death will keep ye from 
among us." He therefore sentenced them to hang. The death penalty had 
now passed from threat to reality. Marmaduke Stevenson retorted: "The 
Lord hath said ... the same day ye put his servants to death shall . . . you be 
curst forevermore. . . . Therefore in love to you all I exhort you to take warn- 
ing before it be too late." 

Nine days later, on October 27, the three condemned Quakers were led 
to their public hanging — the first execution for religion on American soil. 
It was a dramatic day on Boston Common and angry opposition among the 
people led the authorities to bring out a hundred armed soldiers to stand 
guard over the proceedings. When the condemned trio were led out of the 
prison, the soldiers deliberately drowned out the prisoners when they at- 
tempted to address the restive crowd. Reverend John Wilson contributed 
to the day's festivities by taunting Robinson. As Robinson and Stevenson 


were about to be hanged, the former addressed the throng: "We are not 
evil doers," he cried, "but witnesses to the truth and to the inner light of 
Christ." Vigilant to the end, the Reverend Mr. Wilson shouted: "Be silent, 
thou art going to die with a lie on thy mouth." "Hang them or die!" Wilson 
exhorted and the two Quakers were duly killed. Mary Dyer had gained a 
reprieve, but with calculated brutality the authorities did not tell her this 
until the halter was around her neck. 

Driven back to Rhode Island, Mary Dyer remained undaunted, and 
again went back to Massachusetts Bay. Again condemned to death, Mary 
denied the validity of the law and declared that she had returned to bear 
witness against it. Upon refusing to agree to return to Rhode Island to stay, 
Mary Dyer was hanged on June 1, 1660. Perhaps the contemporaneous 
Quaker historian George Bishop was right and Mary Dyer indeed had the 
last word. For Bishop wrote, addressing the Massachusetts Bay: "Your 
bloody laws were snapped asunder by a woman, who, trampling upon you 
and your laws and your halter and your gallows and your priests, is set down 
at the right hand of God." 

And still the indomitable Quakers kept coming. Among the most deter- 
mined to bear witness was William Leddra. Again and again, Leddra had 
visited Massachusetts, had been whipped, starved, and driven out, only to 
return. Now Leddra was being dragged into court in his shackles, having 
been chained to a log of wood all winter. He was charged with sympathiz- 
ing with the executed Quakers, with using "thee" and "thou," with refus- 
ing to remove his hat — in sum, with being a Quaker. Promised his life if he 
recanted his faith, Leddra answered: "What, act so that every man who 
meets me would say, 'this is the man that has forsaken the God of his sal- 
vation!' " When a magistrate asked Leddra if he would agree to go to En- 
gland if released, the prisoner coolly replied, "I have no business there." 
"Then you shall be hanged," retorted the magistrate. Leddra appealed to 
the laws of England, but the court held — as might be expected — that En- 
gland had no jurisdiction in the case, and pronounced the sentence of 

Still chained to the log, Leddra calmly wrote shortly before his execution: 
I testify . . . that the noise of the whip on my back, all the imprisonments, and 
banishments on pain of death, and the loud threatenings of a halter did no 
more affright me, through the strength and power of God, than if they had 
threatened to bind a spider's web to my finger. ... I desire to follow my fore- 
fathers in suffering and in joy. My spirit waits and worships at the feet of 

On March 14, 1661, William Leddra was led out to his execution on Bos- 
ton Common. Once again, the heavily armed guard prevented him from 
addressing the crowd. But as the officers were taking him to the gallows, 
Leddra cried out: "For bearing my testimony for the Lord against de- 
ceivers and the deceived I am brought here to suffer." The people were so 
moved by Leddra's calmness and nobility that again the crowd threat- 


ened and once again the vigilant Reverend Mr. Wilson stepped into the 
breach, explaining to the people that many such criminals are willing to 
die for their "delusions." 

Leddra was destined to be the last American martyr, although there 
were to be a number of close calls. Wenlock Christison, a banished Quaker, 
returned to Massachusetts during the Leddra trial in order to protest it in 
court. In the midst of the trial, Christison had appeared in court and warned 
Endecott: "I am come here to warn you that you shed no more innocent 
blood, for the blood that you have shed already, cries to the Lord for ven- 
geance to come upon you." Christison was, of course, arrested immedi- 
ately, and protested at his own trial that the law violated the laws of En- 
gland. Given a chance to recant, Christison defiantly replied: "Nay, I shall 
not change my religion, nor seek to save my life. I do not intend to deny 
my Master, and if I lose my life for Christ's sake, then I shall save it." 

Governor Endecott summoned the magistrates for the usual death sen- 
tence, but by now the groundswell of popular resentment against the 
blood-bath was becoming menacing and several magistrates, led by Rich- 
ard Russell, refused to vote for death. Enraged at two split votes, and two 
weeks of determined opposition to the "bloody course," Endecott shouted: 
"You that will not consent, record it. I thank God I am not afraid to give 
judgment," whereupon he summarily and illegally declared the death 
sentence himself. Upon hearing his sentence, Christison warned the 
court: "What do you gain by it? For the last man that you put to death here 
are five come in his room; and if you have power to take my life from me, 
God can raise up the same principle of life in ten of his subjects and send 
them among you in my room, that you may have torment." 

By early 1661 two Quakers were under sentence of death. Beside Chris- 
tison, Edward Wharton of Salem had been a fellow prisoner and cellmate 
of Leddra throughout his final ordeal. Wharton had been fined heavily and 
whipped with twenty lashes for denouncing the killing of Robinson and 
Stevenson and was later arrested for being a Quaker. When Leddra was 
sentenced to death, Wharton was banished on pain of death and given ten 
days to leave the colony. Instead, Wharton accompanied his friend to the 
gallows and buried Leddra's body. He then went to Boston and wrote the 
authorities that he was there and there he would remain! 

Yet these two courageous men, plus twenty-seven other Quakers await- 
ing trial, were never executed. For word now reached Massachusetts of an 
event that was to prove momentous in the history of New-England — and to 
spell the beginning of the long drawn-out end to the reign of the Puritan 
theocracy in Massachusetts Bay: the reestablishment of the monarchy in 
England. Now there was no longer an indulgent Puritan rule in England or 
a civil war to distract the imperial power from the knowledge that Massa- 
chusetts and the other New England colonies were totally self-governing. 

Knowledge of the Restoration therefore gave the Massachusetts author- 
ities pause. The year before, rising internal protest within Massachusetts 


had led them to free a Quaker couple from the death sentence. They also 
knew that English and banished American Quakers had been protesting 
the persecution to the home government. Indeed, George Bishop's New- 
England Judged* had just been published, and had made a deep impres- 
sion on Charles II. 

The king was particularly incensed at Massachusetts' scornful refusal of 
appeal to the laws of England. The banished Quakers presented a petition 
to the king detailing the persecution that they had suffered to date. Massa- 
chusetts countered with the charge that the Quakers were "open blas- 
phemers" and "malignant promoters of doctrines tending to subvert both 
our church and state." Edward Burrough replied for the Quakers that they 
had never "lifted up a hand or made a turbulent gesture" against church or 
state, but had only warned sinners to repent. It was at this point that the 
news arrived in England of the martyrdom of William Leddra. Burrough 
gained a personal interview with the king and told him the news. Bur- 
rough warned: "There is a vein of innocent blood opened in thy dominions 
which will run all over, if it is not stopped." To the king this was the last 
straw: "I will stop that vein." "Then stop it speedily," Burrough implored, 
"for we know not how many may soon be put to death." The king promptly 
dispatched the banished Quaker Samuel Shattuck to Massachusetts with 
the order to stop all further execution and torture of the Quakers and to per- 
mit all imprisoned Quakers to leave for England. 

Prudently, Massachusetts released all Quakers, and ordered them to 
leave for England or else leave the border of Massachusetts within eight 
days. Two recalcitrant prisoners were tied to a cart's tail and whipped out 
of the colony. Among the Quakers released were Christison and old Nich- 
olas Upshall, who had been imprisoned for two years. 

Massachusetts, however, refused to obey the order to transfer Quaker 
prisoners to England for trial as an infringement of its charter rights and 
privileges. Furthermore, the General Court sent two of the colony's most 
prominent leaders, Simon Bradstreet and Rev. John Norton, to England to 
justify persecution of the Quakers. The two denounced the Quakers' "dan- 
gerous, impetuous and desperate turbulence, both to religion and the state 
civil and ecclesiastical." The king now changed his mind and in effect re- 
scinded his order, except for stopping the death penalty: "We have found 
it necessary . . . here to make a sharp law against them and we are well 
contented that you do the likewise there." Charles added the acknowledg- 
ment that Quaker principles were basically incompatible with the exis- 
tence of any kind of state. 

The Massachusetts authorities needed no more encouragement to re- 
sume their campaign against the Quakers — of course, stopping short of ex- 
ecution. It was at this point that the Cart and Whip Act was passed. This 
provided for tying Quakers to the tail of a cart and whipping them out of the 

•Published in 1661 as New-England Judged, Not by Man's, but the Spirit of the Lord. 


colony. Death was now only the penalty for the sixth offense, but this was 
never to be enforced. The peak of the terror campaign had passed. 

Massachusetts proceeded to enforce the Cart and Whip Act as thoroughly 
as it could, particularly against Quaker women. Many Quakers, including 
several of the released prisoners, were whipped out of the colony only to re- 
turn. Public pressure forced a modification of the terms of the Cart and 
Whip Act in the fall of 1662, but the persecution continued undiminished. 
Particularly important was the case of three English Quaker women — 
Alice Ambrose, Mary Tomkins, and Ann Coleman — who had, along with 
the released Edward Wharton, gone to the annexed New Hampshire 
town of Dover and made considerable progress there among former Hutch- 
insonians and Baptists, as they did also in Maine. Finally, the Reverend 
Mr. Rayner, Puritan minister of Dover, induced the Massachusetts mag- 
istrates to apply the Cart and Whip Act to the three women. The women 
were duly stripped to the waist, tied to a cart's tail, and whipped through 
eleven towns, through deep snow, and lashed up to ten times apiece in 
each town. And yet the tortured women met their fate by singing hymns 
as they went. Finally, Walter Barefoot of Salisbury could stand the sight no 
more. Barefoot had himself made deputy constable and took it upon him- 
self to liberate the three women — this despite the urging of old Rev. 
John Wheelwright, now residing in Salisbury, to continue the whippings. 
Wheelwright had now evidently made his peace with Massachusetts in 
every way and was busy repudiating his heretical and libertarian past. 

As soon as they were freed, the three courageous women returned to 
Dover to continue their prayer meetings. Alice Ambrose and Mary Tom- 
kins were promptly seized, dragged through the snow, imprisoned, and 
then tied to the tail of a canoe and dragged through deep and freezing 
water, almost being killed in the process. 

Another important case was that of the unfortunate Elizabeth Hooton, 
an aging lady who had been the first woman Quaker in England. Her 
whole life a bloody hegira of persecution and torture, Elizabeth had walked 
virtually from Virginia to Boston where she was immediately jailed, 
taken to the border, and left in the wilderness, from which she walked to 
Rhode Island. Sailing back to Boston, she was arrested and shipped to Vir- 
ginia. After being persecuted in Virginia, she went to England. Obtaining 
a special license from the king to build a house in America, she sailed to 
Boston once more. Here Massachusetts refused to allow Friends to meet 
in her home, and she left for the promising Piscataqua towns. At Hamp- 
ton she was imprisoned, and in Dover put into the stocks and imprisoned. 
Then Elizabeth Hooton returned to Cambridge where she was thrown 
into a dungeon and kept two days without food. A Quaker, hearing about 
her sufferings, took her some milk, for which she was fined the large sum 
of five pounds. Despite her letter from the king, Elizabeth was given ten 
lashes in Cambridge, then taken to Watertown and lashed ten times 
more, and, finally, tied to a cart in Dedham and whipped through the town 


with ten more lashes. At the end of this travail she was left at night in the 
woods; from there she managed to walk to Seekonk and thence to New- 

Incredibly, and notwithstanding this bloody odyssey, Elizabeth Hooton 
did not give up. Once again she returned to Cambridge, where after being 
subjected to verbal abuse by a group of Harvard scholars she was whipped 
through three towns to the Rhode Island border. Yet again Elizabeth re- 
turned to Massachusetts to bear witness to her faith. Again she was lashed 
ten times, put in prison, then whipped at a cart's tail through three more 
towns, and left in the woods. Back again, she went to Boston, was whipped 
out of town once more and threatened with death if she returned. But 
Elizabeth continued to return and the authorities did not dare go all the 
way; she was whipped out of several more towns, and walked again to 
Rhode Island. 

In protest against these punishments, many Quaker women began ap- 
pearing naked in public as a "naked sign" of the persecution, for which be- 
havior they were, of course, whipped through the towns. 

Another turning point in the Massachusetts persecution of the Quakers 
came in the mid- 1660s. As will be treated further below, King Charles II 
sent a commission to New England in 1664 with instructions to reestab- 
lish the royal power. The commissioners promptly ordered Massachusetts 
to stop all persecution of the Quakers, so that they might "quietly pass 
about their lawful occasions." They added that it was surprising that the 
Puritans, who had received full liberty of conscience themselves, should re- 
fuse it to other religious groups. Although Massachusetts by no means sub- 
mitted to commission rule, the Puritans dared not go too far in persecut- 
ing the Quakers for fear of losing their precious charter. Furthermore, the 
bloodstained older generation of the Puritan oligarchy had begun to die off, 
and to be replaced by a far more moderate generation. In 1663 the spirit- 
ual leader of the colony and of the persecutions, the Reverend John Norton, 
died at the age of fifty-seven, and the Quakers may be pardoned for exult- 
ing that this took place "by the immediate power of the Lord." Two years 
later, the temporal leader of the colony, Governor John Endecott, followed 
Norton in death. It is ironic, incidentally, that none other than Elizabeth 
Hooton turned up at Endecott's funeral and attempted to address the 

And so the ruthless attempt to eradicate Quakerism from Massachu- 
setts Bay had signally failed. As Roger Williams had warned Massachu- 
setts when the Quakers first arrived, the more savage the persecution the 
more adherence to the Quakers would multiply. Not only did this happen, 
but internal opposition to the oligarchy multiplied as well. By the 1670s, 
troubled by their failure and by the growing internal and external oppo- 
sition, the Massachusetts authorities decided to slacken their campaign of 
terror. Despite the urgings of such diehards as the Reverend Thomas Shep- 
ard, an open Quaker meeting in Boston in 1674 was allowed to be held. By 


1676 the Reverend Mr, Hubbard was concluding that "too much severity" 
in persecution could only lead to "incurable opposition and obstinacy." 
The last case of Quaker persecution occurred in 1677, when Margaret 
Brewster came out from a sick bed in sackcloth and ashes "to bear a tes- 
timony and be as a sign to warn the bloody town of Boston to end its cruel 
laws." She was duly whipped through Boston at the tail of a cart. 

The bloody persecution of the Quakers was over. The Massachusetts 
theocracy, while succeeding in driving out Roger Williams and the Hutch- 
insonians, had failed completely to extirpate the indomitable Friends. 

Massachusetts Bay also pursued the newly burgeoning sect of Baptists 
in the 1660s, but not with the same intensity with which it pursued the 
Quakers. The founder of the Baptists in Massachusetts was Thomas Gould 
of Charlestown, who was repeatedly harassed by ministers, elders, and 
high authorities to bring his infant for baptism. Refusing to do so because of 
his opposition to infant baptism, Gould tried to organize his own congre- 
gation. They were immediately hauled into court, convicted of heresy, 
fined, and imprisoned. 

The Massachusetts authorities, fond of interminable argumentation, 
then arranged a public debate in Boston between six leading Puritan 
ministers and some of the humble Baptists, who were bolstered by sev- 
eral emissaries from the strong contingent of Baptists from Newport, 
Rhode Island. The debate, which took place in April 1668, lasted through 
two days, during which the Baptists were repeatedly denounced as en- 
emies of the church and state. One of the leading Puritans, the Reverend 
Jonathan Mitchell, ended the debate on an ominous note — the injunc- 
tion from Deuteronomy that "the man that will do presumptuously and 
will not hearken unto the priest . . . even that man shall die." 

But this time the threat remained only a threat. The authorities did pro- 
ceed with further trial of Gould and two associates, who were charged 
with organizing a church without approval of the government and whose 
denial of infant baptism undermined the authority of "unbaptised" min- 
isters and congregations. The court sentenced the Baptists to banishment, 
and when they refused to leave, they were imprisoned for many months. 

However, as we have seen with the Quakers, sentiment against re- 
ligious persecution was now growing in Massachusetts, even among 
Puritans. This was increased by a post-Restoration immigration of 
English Puritans, who were far more tolerant than the Old Guard of 
Massachusetts Bay. A group of sixty-six, including prominent men of the 
colony, pleaded for freedom for the Baptists. The oligarchy reacted, as 
was their habit: seizing and convicting the petitioners for contempt of 
authority. The petitioners were fined and forced to apologize. 

But, as in the case of the Quakers, persecution only swelled the ranks 
of the persecuted. In 1679 the Baptists were strong enough to build their 
own meetinghouse. The General Court immediately passed a law con- 
fiscating all churches built without government permission. The author- 


ities promptly seized the building, and banned services there "without 
license from authority." The congregation continued to meet in the 
yard, and finally the General Court gave up, fearful of defying the king, 
who was leaning increasingly toward religious freedom. The court 
eventually returned the church to its owners. The Baptists too had won 
their right to worship in their own way. 



Economics Begins to Dissolve 
the Theocracy: Disintegration of 
the Fur Monopoly 

As happens on every new continent, the vast majority of Americans 
were engaged in transforming natural resources into use; in the case 
of New England, farming, fish, timber, and furs purchased from Indians 
located deep in the interior. Merchants and shippers largely exported 
this produce and in return imported other desired goods from abroad. It 
should be noted that, in contrast to the glib assumptions of many critics, 
there is no inherent "class conflict" between farmers and merchants 
in the market economy. There is no "agrarian interest" in a per se clash 
with a "commercial" or "mercantile" interest. Both groups play an 
intermeshing and complementary role in the processes of production 
and exchange. How, indeed, could "agrarians" find a market for their 
produce without merchants, and without farmers, in what goods would 
the merchants trade and to whom would they sell? 

New England, indeed all of America north of the Potomac, had not the 
monoculture of the South (tobacco in the Chesapeake area and, later, rice 
in South Carolina), but a variety of products. The first products of New 
England were fish and furs, and the bulk of the earlier settlements be- 
gan as fishing stations or fur trading posts. From the Indians, the whites 
soon learned two techniques indispensable to carving a living out of the 
new land: how to clear these unfamiliar woods, and how to grow that 
new product, Indian corn (maize), which soon became the North's 
leading agricultural product. Other important agricultural commodities 
in the North were wheat, rye, and barley. 

To the first generation of devout Puritans migrating en masse to 
Massachusetts, intent on founding their "Bible Commonwealth," trade 


was more than slightly suspect. Trade was something to be watched, 
regulated, controlled — a standing distraction from "godly" concerns. There 
was little conception that the market has laws and workings of its own. 

And yet, economic reality had, as always, to be dealt with — and even 
in the godliest of commonwealths there was often chicanery afoot. 
When the Puritans began to arrive in the late 1620s, the most highly de- 
veloped enterprise in New England was the Plymouth fur trade with the 
Indians, But within a decade the Plymouth fur trade had virrually dis- 
appeared, and the economically declining Pilgrims had to content 
themselves with sending their agricultural produce to Boston to sell. 
How did this happen? How did Plymouth so swiftly become a sleepy 
backwater of Massachusetts Bay? 

It is misleading to say that Massachusetts, with its influx of Puritans, 
was larger and wealthier. For this would not automatically have ef- 
fected such a drastic revolution in forrunes. Moreover, Massachusetts 
supplanted Plymouth in the fur trade even though very few furs were 
native to the Massachusetts area. 

The swiftness of this rurnover is explicable only by contrasting the 
workings of governmental monopoly privilege with free private en- 
terprise. In 1627 Plymouth owed £1,800 to its English financiers. Taking 
advantage of this opportunity, a group of eight leading rulers of the colony 
— as key members of the ruling oligarchy — in effect granted themselves a 
monopoly of the Plymouth fur trade in exchange for assuming the Plym- 
outh debt. Also drawn into the monopoly scheme were four of the 
English merchant-creditors. The monopoly was to run for six years, but 
was annually renewed for several years afterward. Monopoly never 
spurs enterprise or initiative, and this was undoubtedly a major factor 
in the swift decline of the trade in the late 1630s, when competition 
from Massachusetts had to be faced. Plymouth could not, after all, deal 
with Massachusetts Bay as it had dealt with the competition of the highly 
efficient fur trader Thomas Morton, that is, by wiping out his settlement 
and deporting him back to England. Furthermore, the London creditors, 
while ingesting monopoly profits, fraudulently failed to reduce the Plym- 
outh debt by that amount; the debt thus remained a heavy burden on the 
colony. So swiftly did the Plymouth fur trade collapse that virtually no one 
remained in it by 1640 and the monopoly was allowed to lapse. 

It is true that the Massachusetts settlers helped this process along by 
such acts as seizing the Windsor trading post on the Connecticut River in 
1635, but these were scarcely decisive. Instead, it was private, inde- 
pendent settlers, building trading posts in the interior — especially on the 
Connecticut River — building at their own risk and on their own initia- 
tive, who developed the New England fur trade. The most important 
fur trader was William Pynchon, who founded Springfield, the strategic 
northernmost settlement on the Connecticut River. Pynchon became a 


virtual manorial lord of Springfield, functioning as landed gentry and 
chief magistrate. 

While the fur trade in Massachusetts and Connecticut was relatively 
free in contrast to Plymouth's, it was hardly a pure free enterprise. The 
governments regulated the prices of furs, taxed income from the trade, 
and moreover, insisted on licensing each entry into the trade. Indeed, 
entrance into the vital fur trade became a lucrative monopolistic priv- 
ilege restricted to influential men with connections in the govern- 
ment of the colony. William Pynchon was granted the exclusive monop- 
oly of the entire fur trade in the crucial Springfield region. As a result, he 
was able to expancTgreatly and establish branch trading posts of Spring- 
field in the new settlements at Hadley and Westfield. In 1644 Massa- 
chusetts granted a twenty-one-year fur monopoly to one company that 
included Boston importers William Tyng and Robert Sedgwick. The mo- 
nopoly quickly went bankrupt, as did another attempt at a fur monopoly 
the following year. 

In Rhode Island, meanwhile, Roger Williams was the first leading 
fur trader. One of the secrets of his success was that his social philosophy 
of peace and friendship with the Indians was complemented by con- 
crete peaceful trading relations. 

But New England, in the final analysis, was fur-poor, and by the late 
1650s even the Massachusetts fur trade was beginning to decline rapidly. 
In New Haven it was a drive for scarce furs that lay at the root of New 
Haven's desperate attempts to colonize the Delaware Valley. As New 
England furs became scarcer, Indian trade concentrated deeper into 
the interior, and was increasingly centered around the Dutch post of 
Fort Orange at the current site of Albany. New England fur interests 
gave way to interests in land, agriculture, and other types of trade. 



Economics Begins to Dissolve 

the Theocracy: The Failure of 

Wage and Price Control 

From the first, the Massachusetts oligarchy, seeing that in the New 
World land was peculiarly abundant in relation to labor, tried by law to 
push down the wage rates that they had to pay as merchants or land- 
owners. Maximum-wage controls were persistently imposed. John 
Winthrop set the tone in 1633, complaining that "the scarcity of work- 
men had caused them to raise their wages to an excessive rate. . . ." 
What else was supposed to happen with a scarce product? 

As in the South, there were at the base of New England's economic 
structure indentured servants and Negro slaves, who sometimes were 
farm labor but mostly were artisans, helpers, and domestic servants. 
After the servants' terms expired, they received small grants of land 
and became farmer-settlers. The Massachusetts gentry also supple- 
mented this system of labor with general compulsory service in harvest- 
ing neighboring farms — a neat way of exploiting the local citizenry at 
wage rates far below the market. 

Maximum-wage control always aggravates a shortage of labor, as 
employers will not be able to obtain needed workers at the statutory 
price. In trying to force labor to be cheaper than its price on the free 
market, the gentry only made it more difficult for employers to obtain 
that labor. By 1640 Winthrop was admitting that Massachusetts had 
"found by experience that it would not avail by any law to redress the 
excessive rates of laborers' and workmen's wages, etc. (for being re- 
strained, they would either remove to other places where they might 
have more or else being able to live by planting or other employments 
of their own, they would not be hired at all). ..." 


Of course, one method of alleviating this induced shortage was by 
using the forced labor of slavery, servitude, and compulsory harvest serv- 
ice. Thus, one intervention by violence in the market created conditions 
impelling a further and stronger intervention. But apart from forced 
labor, the Massachusetts authorities, as we have noted, found it ex- 
tremely difficult to enforce maximum-wage control. 

The first maximum-wage law was enacted by Massachusetts as 
early as 1630. Due to the high wages commanded by the scarcity of con- 
struction craftsmen, the law concentrated on maximum-wage rates 
in the building trades. Carpenters, bricklayers, etc., were limited to two 
shillings a day and any payment above this rate would subject both the 
employer and the worker to punishment (for instance, a buying-cartel 
of employers established by the law punished the recalcitrant employer 
who decided to break ranks). Almost immediately, the magistrates 
decided to imbibe more of the magic medicine, and legal wage rates 
were pushed down to sixteen pence a day for master carpenters and 
bricklayers, and correspondingly lower for other laborers. 

But the economic laws of the market made enforcement hopeless, 
and after only six months, the General Court repealed the laws, and 
ordered all wages to be "left free and at liberty as men shall reasonably 
agree." But Massachusetts Bay was not to remain wise for long. By 1633 
the General Court became horrified again at higher wage rates in con- 
struction and other trades and at the propensity of the working classes 
to rise above their supposedly appointed station in life by relaxing more 
and by spending their wages on luxuries. Denouncing "the great extor- 
tion ... by divers persons of little conscience" and the "vain and idle 
waste of precious time," the court enacted a comprehensive and detailed 
wage-control program. 

The law of 1633 decreed a maximum of two shillings a day without 
board and fourteen pence with board, for the wages of sawyers, carpen- 
ters, masons, bricklayers, etc. Top-rate laborers were limited to eighteen 
pence without. These rates were approximately double those of England 
for skilled craftsmen and treble for unskilled laborers. Constables were 
to set the wages of lesser laborers. Penalties were levied on the employ- 
ers and the wage earners who violated the law. Sensing that maximum 
controls below the market wage led to a shortage of labor, the General 
Court decreed that no idleness was to be permitted. In effect, mini- 
mum hours were decreed in order to bolster the maximum-wage law 
— another form of compulsory labor. Workmen were ordered to work 
"the whole day, allowing convenient time for food and rest." 

Interestingly, the General Court soon decided to make an exception 
for the government itself, which was naturally having difficulty finding 
men willing to work on its public-works projects. A combination of the 
carrot and the stick was used: government officials were allowed to 
award "such extraordinary wages as they shall judge the work to de- 


serve." On the other hand, they were empowered to send town con- 
stables to conscript laborers as the need arose. 

Although merchants were happy to join the landed oligarchy and the 
Puritan zealots in forcing down the wage rates of laborers, they were 
scarcely as happy about maximum controls on selling prices. The gentry 
were eager, however, to force downward the prices of products they 
needed to buy. A blend of mercantilist fallacies and Puritan suspicion of 
commerce, the result was persistent attempts to force commodities 
below their market prices. Having little conception of the function of the 
price system on the free market, the Massachusetts authorities also 
felt that maximum-price control would bolster the maximum-wage- 
rate program. There was no understanding that general movements in 
prices and wages are governed by the supply of and demand for money, 
and that this too can best work itself out on the free market. 

Corn was the major monetary medium of the North, and in 1630 
Massachusetts set the sterling price of corn at six shillings per bushel. 
Failing to work, this control was repealed along with the wage laws of 
1631, and corn was "left at liberty to be sold as men can agree." In 1633, 
however, maximum-price controls were reimposed as an auxiliary to 
the wage controls. 

The massive wage laws of 1633 were quickly discovered to be a failure; 
once again the quiet but powerful economic laws of the market had 
triumphed over the dramatic decrees of the coercive state. After one 
year the actual wage rates were fifty percent higher than the statutory 
levels. At that point, the General Court repealed the penalties against 
paying, but retained those against receiving, wages above the fixed 
legal rate. While, in fact, no employer had ever been tried or penalized 
under the old act, the wage law was now an open and flagrant piece 
of class legislation. This was nothing new, however, as there were 
ample precedents in English maximum-wage laws since the early 
fifteenth century. 

Another change made in 1634 allowed a little flexibility in decreed 
prices and wages by permitting each town to alter the legal rate in case 
of disputes. Only a year later the General Court, despairing of the con- 
tinued failure of the law to take hold, repealed the comprehensive wage 
controls and the auxiliary price controls. Just before this comprehensive 
repeal, the courts had apparently been driven by the failure to inflict 
ever harsher penalties; fines had been so heavy that two workers were 
imprisoned for failure to pay. The authorities were at the crossroads: 
should they begin to impose on workers violating clearly unworkable 
economic decrees the sort of punishment meted out to heretics or to 
critics of the government? Happily, common sense, in this case, finally 

Made wary by its thundering failure, the theocracy no longer at- 
tempted a comprehensive planned economy in Massachusetts Bay. 


From then on, it was content to engage in annoying, but not fatal, 
hit-and-run harrassments of the market. Penalties were made dis- 
cretionary, and in 1636 wage and price regulations were transferred by 
the provincial government to the individual towns, as suggested by the 
leading Puritan divine, Rev. John Cotton. The General Court was supposed 
to exercise overall supervision, but exerted no systematic control. Con- 
trol by each town, as had been anticipated, was even more ineffective 
than an overall plan, because each town, bidding against the others 
for laborers, competitively bid wages up to their market levels. The 
General Court wailed that all this was "to get the great dishonor of God, 
the scandal of the Gospel, and the grief of divers of God's people." A 
committee of the most eminent oligarchs of the Bay colony was ap- 
pointed to suggest remedies, but could think of no solution. 

Of the towns, Dorchester was perhaps the most eager to impose 
wage controls. During the Pequot War, and again in 1642, it combined 
maximum wages with conscription of any laborer unwilling to work 
and to work long enough at the low rates. Hingham also enacted a max- 
imum-wage program in 1641, and Salem was active in prosecuting 
wage offenders. 

In 1635, the year of the repeal of the wage and price plan, the Massa- 
chusetts authorities tried a new angle: under the cloak of a desire to 
"combat monopolizing," the Massachusetts government created a legal 
monopoly of nine men — one from each of the existing towns — for purchas- 
ing any goods from incoming ships. This import monopoly was to board 
all the ships before anyone else, decide on the prices it would pay, and 
then buy the goods and limit itself to resale at a fixed five percent 
profit. But, this attempt to combine monopoly with maximum-price 
control failed also. The outlawing of competing buyers could not be en- 
forced and the import monopoly had to be repealed within four months. 
What ensued was far better but was still not pure freedom of entry. 
Instead, licensing was required of all importers, with preference usually 
given to friends of the government. 

Generally, the merchants were the most progressive, wordly, and cosmo- 
politan element in Massachusetts life. The merchants were able to gain 
political control of the growing commercial hub of Boston by the mid- 
16305. But the rest of Massachusetts remained in the hands of a right 
alliance of Puritan zealots and landed gentry who dominated the magis- 
trates' council and the governorship. During the decade of the 1630s 
only two out of twenty-two magistrates were merchants, one of these 
being the Hutchinsonian leader William Coddington. This reflected the 
occupational differences of their native England. The gentry had, by and 
large, been minor gentry in rural England, while the merchants usually 
hailed from London or other urban centers. In contrast to the authoritar- 
ian and theocratic gentry, the merchants had a far more individualist 
and independent spirit and often opposed the Massachusetts oligarchy. 


It was no accident that almost all the merchants championed the 
Hutchinsonian movement — including Coddington, John Coggeshall, and 
the Hutchinson family itself. In spite of the earlier failures, Massachu- 
setts tried to resume its harassment and regulation of the merchants, 
but even more sporadically than in the case of wages. Millers were 
fined for charging what were arbitrarily termed "excessive" prices for 
their flour. A woodmaker was fined in 1639 for charging the Boston 
government "excessive" prices for making Boston's stocks, and, as 
Professor Richard Morris notes, the General Court "with great Puritan 
humor sentenced him, in addition, to sit in the stocks he himself had 
made."* Heavy fines and Puritan denunciations were also the lot of 
merchants supposedly overcharging for nails, gold buttons, and other 
commodities. The Puritan church was quick to condemn these merchants, and 
insisted on penitence for this "dishonor of God's name" in order to regain 
membership in the church. 

The most notable case of persecution of a merchant occurred in 1639. 
Robert Keayne, a leading Boston importer and large investor in the Massa- 
chusetts Bay Company, and the devout brother-in-law of Rev. John Wilson, 
was found guilty in General Court of gaining "excess" profit, including a 
markup of over one hundred fifty percent on some items. The authorities 
displayed once more their profound ignorance of the functions of profit and 
loss in the market economy. Keayne was especially aggrieved because 
there was no law on the books regulating profits. In contrast, the Maine 
court, in the case of Cleve v. Winter (1640), dismissed charges against a 
merchant for setting excessive prices, on the grounds that it was not legiti- 
mate to regulate a man's profit in trade. So a sounder strain of thought did 
exist despite the official view. 

Massachusetts' sister colonies also tried to impose a theocratic planned 
economy. As we might have expected, the effort of New Haven Colony, 
founded in distaste for the alleged laxity of Massachusetts Puritanism, 
was the most comprehensive. New Haven's Act of 1640 established fixed 
profit markups of varying grades for different types of trade: three pence 
in the shilling, for example, for retail of English imports, and less for whole- 
sale. Prices were supposed to be proportionate to risk for colonial products. 
Above all, a highly detailed list of maximum-wage rates for each occupa- 
tion was issued. A year later, an ambitious new schedule was decreed, 
pushing down wage rates even further. 

But even fanatical New Haven could not conquer economic law, and 
only nine months later the authorities were forced to admit defeat, and 
the entire program was repealed. After that resounding failure, no further 
comprehensive controls were attempted at New Haven, although there 
were a few sporadic attempts to regulate specific occupations. 

•Richard B. Morris, Government and Labor in Early America (New York: Columbia 
University Press, 1946), p. 74. 


Comprehensive wage control was also attempted in Connecticut. An 
abortive regulation of wages was imposed in early 1640, but repealed later 
the same year. The following year Connecticut, again alarmed about "ex- 
cessive" and rising wages (with men "a law unto themselves"), enacted a 
maximum-wage scale for each occupation. However, instead of the heavy 
fines imposed by Massachusetts, the only prescribed penalty was censure 
by the colony's General Court. 

Because the monetary medium of Connecticut was corn, wheat, or rye, 
maximum-wage legislation, to be effective, depended on minimum rates 
of exchange of these commodities in terms of shillings — otherwise, maxi- 
mum wages in shillings would be effectively negated by declines in the 
shilling prices of corn. Minimum corn, wheat, and rye prices were, accord- 
ingly, fixed at legal tender for wage and other contracts. A slight reduction 
of wheat and corn prices, however, was allowed in 1644, and, finally, in 
1650 Connecticut also abandoned the foolhardy attempt to plan the price 
and wage structure of the colony's economy. 



Mercantilism, Merchants, and 
"Class Conflict" 

The economic policy dominant in the Europe of the seventeenth and 
eighteenth centuries, and christened "mercantilism" by later writers, at 
bottom assumed that detailed intervention in economic affairs was a proper 
function of government. Government was to control, regulate, subsidize, 
and penalize commerce and production. What the content of these regula- 
tions should be depended on what groups managed to control the state 
apparatus. Such control is particularly rewarding when much is at stake, 
and a great deal is at stake when government is "strong" and intervention- 
ist. In contrast, when government powers are minimal, the question of who 
runs the state becomes relatively trivial. But when government is strong 
and the power struggle keen, groups in control of the state can and do con- 
stantly shift, coalesce, or fall out over the spoils. While the ouster of one 
tyrannical ruling group might mean the virtual end of tyranny, it often 
means simply its replacement by another ruling group employing other 
forms of despotism. 

In the seventeenth century the regulating groups were, broadly, feudal 
landlords and privileged merchants, with a royal bureaucracy pursuing as 
a superfeudal overlord the interest of the Crown. An established church 
meant royal appointment and control of the churches as well. The peas- 
antry and the urban laborers and artisans were never able to control the 
state apparatus, and were therefore at the bottom of the state-organized 
pyramid and exploited by the ruling groups. Other religious groups were, 
of course, separated from or opposed to the ruling state. And religious 
groups in control of the state, or sharing in that control, might well pursue 
not only strictly economic "interest" but also ideological or spiritual ones, 


as in the case of the Puritans' imposing a compulsory code of behavior on 
all of society. 

One of the most misleading practices of historians has been to lump 
together "merchants" (or "capitalists") as if they constituted a homoge- 
neous class having a homogeneous relation to state power. The merchants 
either were suffered to control or did not control the government at a par- 
ticular time. In fact, there is no such common interest of merchants as a 
class. The state is in a position to grant special privileges, monopolies, and 
subsidies. It can only do so to particular merchants or groups of merchants, 
and therefore only at the expense of other merchants who are discriminated 
against. If X receives a special privilege, Y suffers from being excluded. 
And also suffering are those who would have been merchants were it not 
for the state's network of privilege. 

In fact, because of (a) the harmony of interests of different groups on 
the free market (for example, merchants and farmers) and (b) the lack of 
homogeneity among the interests of members of any one social class, it is 
fallacious to employ such terms as "class interests" or "class conflict" in 
discussing the market economy. It is only in relation to state action that 
the interests of different men become welded into "classes," for state ac- 
tion must always privilege one or more groups and discriminate against 
others. The homogeneity emerges from the intervention of the government 
in society. Thus, under feudalism or other forms of "land monopoly" and 
arbitrary land allocation by the government, the feudal landlords, privi- 
leged by the state, become a "class' (or "caste" or "estate"). And the 
peasants, homogeneously exploited by state privilege, also become a class. 
For the former thus constitute a "ruling class" and the latter the "ruled."* 
Even in the case of land privilege, of course, the extent of privilege will 
vary from one landed group to another. But merchants were not privi- 
leged as a class and therefore it is particularly misleading to apply a class 
analysis to them. 

A particularly misleading form of class theory has often been adopted 
by American historians: inherent conflicts between the interests of homo- 
geneous classes of "merchants" as against "farmers," and of "merchant- 
creditors" versus "farmer-debtors." And yet it should be evident that these 
disjunctions are extremely shaky. Anyone can go into debt and there is 
no reason to assume that farmers will be debtors more than merchants. 
Indeed, merchants with a generally larger scale of operations and a more 
rapid turnover are often heavy debtors. Moreover, the same merchant can 

•The differences between the Marxian attribution of "classes" to the market, and the con- 
fining of the concept to the "caste" or "estate" effects of state action, have been brilliantly 
set forth by Ludwig von Mises. See his Theory and History (New Haven: Yale University 
Press, 1957), pp. 112ff; and Socialism (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1951), pp. 328ff. 
Contrast the confusion in Lenin's attempt to defend the Marxian jumble of estate and non- 
estate groups by the same concept of class. See V. I. Lenin, "The Agrarian Programme of 
Russian Social-Democracy," Collected Works (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 
1961), 6:115. 


shift rapidly from one point of time to another, from being a heavy net 
debtor to net creditor, and vice versa. It is impermissible to think in terms 
of fixed persisting debtor classes and creditor classes tied inextricably to 
certain economic occupations. 

The merchants, or capitalists, being the peculiarly mobile and dynamic 
groups in society that can either flourish on the free market or try to ob- 
tain state privileges, are, then, particularly ill-suited to a homogeneous 
class analysis. Furthermore, on the free market no one is fixed in his occu- 
pation, and this particularly applies to entrepreneurs or merchants whose 
ranks can be increased or decreased very rapidly. These men are the very 
opposite of the sort of fixed status imposed on land by the system of 



Economics Begins to Dissolve 

the Theocracy: The Failure of 

Subsidized Production 

To return to the New England scene, the flourishing but harassed Massa- 
chusetts merchants received a severe economic shock in 1640. Much of 
the capital and credit for expanding their commerce had come from the 
wealthier emigrants from England, but by 1640 the great exodus had dried 
up. Realization of this change further cut off the vital flow of English credit 
to Massachusetts merchants, since the credit had been largely predicated 
on a continuing flow of immigrant funds. In addition, the fur trade was 
already declining from the drying up of nearby sources and the restrictions 
of the licensing system. A result of these factors was a severe economic 
crisis in 1640 with heavy declines in prices — of cattle, land, and agricultural 
products. Credit and confidence also collapsed, and the consequent calling 
in of debts aggravated the crisis. (There can be little doubt that the panic 
was also aggravated by the crisis in the English economy in 1640, a crisis 
sparked by Charles Fs seizure of stocks of bullion and other commodities.) 
As is usual in an economic panic, the debtors faced a twofold squeeze: fall- 
ing prices meant that they had to repay their debts in currency worth more 
in purchasing power than the currency they had borrowed; and the demand 
to pay quickly at a time when money was hard to obtain aggravated their 
financial troubles. 

Almost immediately, the debtors turned to the government for aid and 
special privilege. Obediently, the Massachusetts General Court passed, 
in October 1640, the first of a series of debtors-relief legislation that was 
to plague America in every subsequent crisis and depression. A minimum- 
appraisal law compelled the appraisal of insolvent debtors' property at an 
artificially inflated price and a legal-tender provision compelled creditors 


to accept all future payments of debts in an arbitrarily inflated and fixed 
rate in corn, cattle, or fish. Additional privileges to debtors were passed 
in 1642 and 1644; in the latter, for instance, a law was passed permitting 
a debtor to escape foreclosure by simply leaving the colony. Most drastic 
was a law passed by the upper chamber of magistrates, but defeated by 
the deputies, which would have gone to the amazing length of having the 
Massachusetts government assume all private debts that could not be paid! 

The fact that this general debt-assumption bill was passed by the coun- 
cil of magistrates, the organ par excellence of the ruling oligarchy, and 
rejected by the substantially more democratic chamber of deputies, indi- 
cates the need for drastic revision of the common historical stereotype 
that debtors are ipso facto the poor. For here we find the debtors' interest 
represented especially by the ruling oligarchy and not by the more demo- 
cratic body. 

Further debtors-relief legislation — again at the behest of merchants — 
was passed in 1646, compelling creditors to accept barter payments for 
money debts, and in 1650, compelling outright moratoriums on debt pay- 

With fur production declining badly, the Massachusetts government 
turned desperately to artificial attempts to create industry by state action. 
The motives were a blend of the mercantilist error of attempting self- 
sufficiency and cuts in imports and the shrewd granting of privileges to 
favorite businessmen. 

Hence, the colony decided to turn to the subsidization of iron manufac- 
tures. Early iron mines in America were small and located in coastal 
swamps ("bog iron"), and the primary manufactured or wrought iron was 
produced cheaply in local "bloomeries" at an open hearth. The Massachu- 
setts government, however, wanted to force the use of the more imposing — 
and far more expensive — indirect process of wrought-iron manufacture, a 
process that required the erection of a blast furnace and a forge. Such an 
operation required a far larger plant and much more skilled labor. 

In 1641, John Winthrop, Jr. found bog-iron ore at Braintree. He decided 
to embark on the ambitious construction of a furnace and forge — the first 
in the colonies. The Massachusetts General Court had offered any dis- 
coverer of an iron mine the right to work it for twenty-one years; yet it 
insisted that within ten years an iron furnace and forge be erected at each 
bog mine — thus repressing the cheaper open-hearth process. The court 
also insisted that the Winthrop Company — soon organized as the Company 
of Undertakers for an Iron Works in New England, with English capital — 
transport iron to churches, and keep a minimum of its production at home 
rather than export the iron. In 1645 the company was granted a twenty- 
one year monopoly of all iron manufacturing in Massachusetts as well as 
subsidies of timberland, provided that within a few years the company 
would supply the colonists with iron at a price of no more than twenty 
pounds a ton. 


However, even with these privileges, plus large grants of timberland 
that Winthrop managed to wangle from the towns of Boston and Dorches- 
ter, the venture at Braintree was too expensive and failed almost immedi- 
ately. Ousting Winthrop, the company moved its operation northward to 
Lynn, where it managed to build a furnace and forge and to produce some 
quantities of bar iron. Here again, economics caught up with the venture, 
and costs rose faster than revenues. In addition, the company owners 
wanted to sell the iron for cash but the Massachusetts court insisted that 
the company accept barter for its iron, thus "keeping the iron in the col- 
ony"; otherwise, the court argued, the iron would redound to the benefit 
of foreign buyers and the cash profits would be siphoned off to the owners 
in England. The wages paid at the ironworks were apparently not enough 
of a benefit for the court. In its unsuccessful petition to the General Court, 
the company pointed to the benefits to the colony of its payment of wages 
and purchase of supplies, and argued that it had a right to export as it 
chose and to obtain cash in return. What in the world would it do with 
crops paid in barter? With this sort of harassment added to its other 
troubles, the company finally went bankrupt in 1653, and the ironworks 
itself closed down less than a decade later. 

This was not the last of younger Winthrop's ventures into subsidized, 
uneconomic, and failing enterprises. In 1655 he discovered a bog-iron de- 
posit at Stony River in New Haven Colony. The New Haven authorities, 
finding their colony increasingly a sleepy backwater rather than the ex- 
pected commercial success, eagerly welcomed the chance to subsidize an 
ironworks. Raising the capital locally to avoid colonial harassment from 
foreign owners, Winthrop was granted a host of special privileges by col- 
ony and town governments including land grants, payment of all costs of 
building the furnace, a dam on the river, and the transport of fuel. One of 
the owners was the deputy governor of New Haven, Stephen Goodyear, 
who was thus able to use the power of the government to grant himself 
substantial privileges. Yet this ironworks quickly began to lose money and 
little iron was ever produced at Stony River. The works was abandoned 
altogether in the 1660s. 

The sorry record of forced iron production was matched by that of com- 
pulsion in textiles. The New England governments, heedless of the fact 
that the growth of hemp was largely uneconomic, decided that not enough 
hemp was being grown by private farmers and that something had to be 
done about it. Connecticut went to the length of compelling every family 
to plant a minimum of hemp or flax, but soon had to abandon the attempt. 
Massachusetts decided, in 1641, to grant a subsidy of twenty-five percent 
for all linens, cottons, and woolens spun or woven in the colony. It also 
decreed that all servants and children must spend all their leisure time on 
hemp and flax. So speedily did all this spur the growth of hemp that only 
one year later, Massachusetts rescinded its subsidy and felt it had to legis- 
late against the "hoarding" of stocks of hemp. 


Massachusetts also felt that not enough warmer woolen clothes were 
being produced at home. In 1645 it ordered the production of more sheep, 
and in 1654 prohibited all further exports of sheep. Finally, in 1656 Massa- 
chusetts brought its fullest coercive powers into play: all idle hands, es- 
pecially those of "women, girls, and boys," were ordered to spin thread. 
The selectmen of each town were to appoint from each family at least one 
"spinner" and each spinner was ordered to spin linen, wool, or cotton, at 
least half the year, at a rate of three pounds of thread per week. For every 
pound short of the decree, the family responsible was to pay a fine of 
twelve pence to the state. Still, all these stringent mercantilist attempts to 
coerce self-sufficiency were a failure; economic law prevailed once more 
over statute law. By 1660 the attempts to found a textile industry in Massa- 
chusetts were abandoned. From then on, rural western Massachusetts 
made its clothes at home ("homespun" household manufacturers), while 
the urban citizens were content to import their clothing from England. 

John Winthrop, Jr. also tried to found a saltworks in Massachusetts, 
again subsidized by a government eager to promote self-sufficiency in salt. 
These subsidies continued intermittently over a twenty-year period. In the 
1630s free wood for fuel was donated to Winthrop's salthouse; in the 1640s 
Massachusetts agreed to buy 100 tons of salt from Winthrop; in the mid- 
16505 the General Court granted him a twenty-one-year patent. But Win- 
throp never succeeded in producing any salt. 



The Rise of the Fisheries 
and the Merchants 

Attempts of the government to subsidize the beginning of fisheries also 
proved fruitless. During the 1630s, fish were either imported or came from 
Englishmen fishing off Newfoundland and the Maine coast. But the civil 
war of the 1640s crippled the English fishing fleet. New England fisher- 
men, without need of government coercion, expanded their activities to 
fill the gap. There sprang up along the New England coast communities of 
fishermen-farmers, who fished and farmed in alternate seasons. These 
settlements, in such towns as Marblehead, Nantucket, and the Isles of 
Shoals, were conspicuously wow-Puritan. In 1644, for example, not one 
resident of Marblehead qualified as a freeman; in short, not one was a 
church member. In 1647, in fact, so solicitous was the General Court of the 
morals of the Isles of Shoals that no women were allowed to live in the 

The growth of the fisheries greatly expanded the opportunities for trade, 
and merchants came in to market the catch and equip the cargoes. Indeed, 
the Navigation Act of 1651, extending to fish the ban against foreign ves- 
sels carrying colonial products, was put through by the London merchants 
to seize the lucrative carrying trade from Dutch and French vessels. The 
New England merchants purchased the catch from the fishermen and 
shipped it to London importers. These importers were the major entrepre- 
neurs of the trade; they owned, planned, and financed the shipment from 
the beginning. Similarly, London exporters of manufactured goods to New 
England financed the retained ownership of the shipments until sold in 
the colony. So important were close ties to London, that those New En- 
gland merchants who had family or friendship connections with London 


merchants were the ones who flourished in the trade. New England mer- 
chants themselves financed fish exports to the Southern colonies. 

By 1660 New England was the fish leader of the colonies, and fish 
production was flourishing. From the fisheries, the newly burgeoning body 
of Massachusetts merchants expanded the carrying trade to many other 
products. The merchants shipped New England agricultural products, 
including horses, cattle, and timber, abroad. They imported wine from 
Spain and east Atlantic islands, and sugar from the West Indies. They 
carried English manufactured goods to Virginia and North Carolina, 
buying in turn the tobacco of the South and exporting it. A particular 
feature of New England shipping was the "triangular trade": exporting 
timber and agricultural products to the Canaries, transporting slaves from 
there to the West Indies, and then importing sugar from those islands. 

During the 1640s and 1650s, the impact of the English civil war on New 
England trade was a shifting one. In 1645 the merchants drove a free- 
trade bill through the Massachusetts General Court, allowing trade with 
ships of all countries. This was accomplished over the protests of many of 
the leading magistrates of the colony, who were interested more in the 
Puritan cause than in freedom of trade. Later, however, the Navigation 
Acts forced Massachusetts to prohibit trade with France and Holland. And 
over merchants' protests, Massachusetts obeyed Parliament by outlawing 
trade with those colonies that remained royalist: specifically, Virginia 
and the West Indies. Returning the favor, Parliament in 1644 exempted 
New England trade from all English import and export duties. 

One of the most important economic consequences of the Puritan 
Revolution for New England was its impact upon the timber industry. 
The expansion of New England shipping had given rise to a flourishing 
shipbuilding industry. It had also spurred the growth of one of the most 
important New England industries: timber, especially mast trees for ships, 
which flourished particularly on the Piscataqua, a region of Massachusetts 
now in New Hampshire. But the biggest single impetus to the growth of 
the mast tree industry was not so much the natural growth of shipbuilding 
as the huge war contracts suddenly begun in 1655. In that year, Oliver 
Cromwell launched the expedition that captured Jamaica from Spain. 
Fearful that the Baltic trade — the largest source of timber and mast trees 
for England — would be cut off by the war, Cromwell gave orders for the 
stockpiling of timber in New England. 

But more than excessive caution lay at the root of this stockpiling 
program; the appropriation of special privilege was even more in evidence. 
For, during the Commonwealth era, many Puritan merchants of New 
England returned home to England and rose to leading positions in the 
government. Several were even involved with the awarding of contracts 
for the Jamaica expedition. These merchants, still deeply connected with 
New England trade, took care to grant themselves and their associates 
enormous and lucrative timber contracts. Thus, the head of the Jamaica 


expedition was Maj. Gen. Robert Sedgwick, one of New England's biggest 
merchants. The commissioner of the English navy was Edward Hopkins, 
another leading Massachusetts merchant. Commissioner of trade was 
Rear Admiral Nehemiah Bourne, a leading Massachusetts shipwright. 
Another commissioner of the navy was the Massachusetts shipwright 
Francis Willoughby. And treasurer of the navy and direct awarder of the 
naval contracts was Richard Hutchinson, London merchant and brother- 
in-law of the martyred Anne. 

By 1660 all the general patterns of New England trade and production 
were set for more than the next hundred years. These included not only 
the trade and production outlined above, but also the emergence of Boston 
as the overwhelmingly dominant trading center, for Massachusetts and 
for all of New England. The produce — of agriculture, fish, and forest — 
from the rest of New England was sent to Boston, whence it was shipped 
abroad. The other towns became secondary and subsidiary centers, feeding 
the main metropolis from the produce gathered from their outlying areas. 
Similarly, almost all imports into New England came to Boston; from here 
they were shipped to the rest of the colony. Of the 20,000 residents of 
Massachusetts, fully 3,000 lived in Boston. To a lesser extent Charlestown 
and Salem were also leading trade centers. In these three towns, being a 
merchant was a full-time occupation, whereas in the smaller urban areas 
trade was a part-time calling. 

As early as the mid-1640s, the expanding and influential merchants 
tended to be restive about the theocracy and its persecution of heresy. 
Trade and fanatical intolerance do not mix well. The trader tends to want 
peace, wider markets, and freedom of movement. Anything else, any 
blocking of these channels, is bad for business, bad for trade. In Massachu- 
setts, the merchants saw that persecution blocked immigration — therefore, 
the expansion of trade — and injured Massachusetts' reputation in England 
regarding credit and connections. In 1645, it was a group of eminent 
merchants, headed by Sedgwick, Bourne, and Emmanuel Downing, who 
led a petition for repeal of the virtual ban against strangers unacceptable 
to the government, and against the expulsion of the Baptists. But the 
church elders thundered against leniency and prevailed. 

We have seen the brusque fate meted out by Massachusetts to the 
petition in 1646 for greater religious freedom and broader franchise by 
Dr. Robert Child and other merchants and eminent non-Puritan church 
members of the colony. Six years later, the powerful manorial lord of 
Springfield, the fur trader William Pynchon, returned to England after his 
book, critical of the Massachusetts persecutions, was publicly burned by 
the authorities. And the Boston merchant Anthony Stoddard was jailed 
for "insolence" to the government. The merchants generally opposed the 
official adoption of theocracy by the General Court when in 1651 it 
endorsed the Puritan Confession of Faith and Discipline that had been 
drawn up by the Synod of Massachusetts five years earlier. 


This does not mean that the merchants were flaming libertarians; 
indeed, they heartily endorsed the brutal persecution of the Quakers. 
But all in all, the merchants were the liberal wing of the Massachusetts 
community. Their "softness" was duly denounced by the Puritan zealot 
Edward Johnson: "Being so taken up with ... a large profit . . . they 
would have had the commonwealth tolerate divers kinds of sinful opinion 
to entice men to come and sit down with us, that their purses might be 
filled with coin, civil government with contention, and the Churches of 
our Lord Christ with errors. . . ." 

And so trade, economics, became increasingly a solvent of fanatical 
zeal. By their very presence alone, the merchants were a disrupting element 
in the would-be Puritan monolith. Many of the new merchants of the 
1650s were not even Puritans at all (for example, Thomas Breedon, Col. 
Thomas Temple, Richard Wharton); whether inside or outside the church, 
they brought with them a worldly, urbane, and cosmopolitan spirit that 
weakened what the Puritans regarded as the moral fibre of the younger 
generation. It is no wonder that in 1659 the General Court was so con- 
cerned as to proclaim a "day of humiliation" because of the great "sen- 
suality under our present enjoyments." 



Theocracy Begins to 
Wither: The Half -Way Covenant 

The Puritan theocracy faced not only the direct problem of the mer- 
chants and their worldly spirit, but also the withering of their dominion 
from within the very bosom of the church itself. First, the Puritans had 
to bear the cross of their own brethren in England, who had come in- 
creasingly under the influence of liberal ideas in the 1640s and were 
reproaching Massachusetts for its intolerance. Even the former fire- 
brand and persecutor of Anne Hutchinson, Rev. Hugh Peter, having 
returned to England, now urged religious toleration in Massachusetts. 
Shortly before his death in 1649, Governor Winthrop received the sad 
and deeply puzzling news that his own son Stephen, fighting in Cromwell's 
New Model Army, was actually advocating liberty of conscience. "I hope 
his heart is with the Lord," said Winthrop wistfully. 

But even within Massachusetts itself, theocratic rule was beginning 
to slacken. During the 1650s opinion grew rapidly in the New England 
church that the requirements for being chosen a member of the "elect" 
should be greatly loosened. The issue was aggravated by the fact that 
only church members could become freemen, and hence vote in Massachu- 
setts Bay. Therefore, the growing pressure for a broader and more 
democratic franchise could only be satisfied by softening the require- 
ments for church membership — in short by weakening Puritan tenets 

The crisis was precipitated in the Hartford church in Connecticut where 
the practice of Rev. Samuel Stone in admitting church members was 
thought lax by many of the church elders. In 1657, the General Court of 
Massachusetts proposed a synod of all the New England colonies. 


Rhode Island, of course, would take no part, not being a Puritan colony. 
New Haven, most rigorously wedded to theocracy and opposed to any 
change, also refused to participate. From the other end of the spectrum, 
Connecticut accepted and its authorities sent four ministers to the synod; 
Massachusetts appointed fifteen. Over the bitter opposition of the con- 
servative ministers, the synod adopted the "Half-Way Covenant," which 
automatically allowed all those baptized in the church to become church 
members and to have their children baptized as well. Their membership 
would only be associate, or "half-way," but the important point was that 
this partial membership entitled them to vote and therefore to political 
rights. This was a drastic change and could only weaken theocratic rule 
and considerably democratize oligarchic rule in Massachusetts. In 1662 
another intercolonial synod reaffirmed the Half-Way Covenant, and the 
General Courts of Massachusetts and Connecticut advised its adoption 
by all the churches. From all sides and on many fronts the pressures 
were multiplying for dissolution of theocratic rule. 



The Decline and the Rigors 
of Plymouth 

What, in all this time, was happening to Plymouth, the mother colony 
of all New England? Succinctly, it was rapidly and irretrievably declining. 
As we have seen, its fur trade had virtually disappeared by 1640. And for 
the next twenty years, only further decline ensued. By the mid-l640s 
the town of Plymouth was virtually a ghost town; and economically the 
colony had become a backwater of Massachusetts Bay. 

By the 1640s Plymouth, like Massachusetts, found the intensity of its 
religious zeal on the wane, and heresy and "moral" laxity were increasing. 
Plymouth faced a crossroads on how to react to this development: by 
liberty and toleration or by following Massachusetts' path of persecution? 
The critical point came in 1645 when William Vassall, a leading merchant, 
presented to the General Court of Plymouth as well as to that of Mas- 
sachusetts Bay a petition for complete religious liberty— to grant "full 
and free tolerance of religion to all men that will preserve the civil peace 
and submit unto the government." "All men" meant exactly that, including 
Familists, Roman Catholics, and Jews. There was great sentiment in the 
General Court in favor of the Vassall petition. It commanded the support, 
in fact, of a majority of the chamber of deputies, and even of such an old 
roustabout as Capt. Miles Standish. But the ruling oligarchy of the colony, 
headed by Governor Bradford, Thomas Prence, and Edward Winslow, 
strongly opposed religious liberty and was able to block its approval. 

This was the turning point and for the next two decades Plymouth 
accompanied its economic decline by following the lead of Massachusetts 
in increased theocracy and religious persecution. The colony proceeded 
to impose fines for failing to attend church, corporal penalties for denying 


the Scripture, and denial of the rights of citizenship to all critics of the 
laws of Plymouth or of the "true religion." 

One of the persistent troubles of Plymouth was a shortage of ministers, 
aggravated by its poverty, decline, and increased intolerance. To deal 
with this scarcity, Plymouth took another fateful step down the theocratic 
road: it established a state church supported by taxation. Protests against 
this new establishment were led by Dr. Matthew Fuller, of the town of 
Duxbury, who for his pains was denounced as "wicked" by the Plymouth 
authorities and forced to pay a steep fine. 

Despite this establishment, the Pilgrim ministers remained poor, as they 
had to collect the pulpit taxes themselves and the parishioners were usually 
far in arrears. 

Religious persecution continued to tighten. The colony did not believe 
itself too poor to afford inspectors of youth; one was appointed in each 
parish to supervise and birch any boy unruly in church. When this pro- 
cedure failed, the inspectors intensified their birching penalties and in- 
cluded girls in this corporal punishment as well. 

Governor William Bradford died in 1657 at the age of sixty-seven. He 
left the colony impoverished, though he himself died a rich man, the 
richest in Plymouth. He was succeeded by Thomas Prence, who liked to 
think of himself as a "terror to evildoers." When the Quaker influx arrived 
in Plymouth, Prence was as good as his word. Laws passed against 
Quakers provided for the summary arrest of suspected heretics, in order 
to keep "corrupt" would-be freemen from the colony. And as a special slap 
at any Anglican deviation, the vicious practice of celebrating Christmas 
was outlawed. 

In 1659 six Quakers were banished and Governor Prence thundered that 
all Quakers deserved "to be destroyed, both they, their wives, and their 
children, without pity or mercy." But most Pilgrims balked at this call for 
total victory. As a result, the colony did not flay, brand, or mutilate — let 
alone kill — its Quakers, as did Massachusetts Bay. 

The leading case of Quaker persecution in Plymouth was that of Hum- 
phrey Norton, who was banished and then returned. Though denounced by 
Governor Prence, Norton refused, according to Quaker principles, to take 
an oath of allegiance. Sentenced to be whipped, Norton managed to 
escape the punishment by refusing to pay the customary marshal's fee for 
the "service" of being whipped, and was again expelled. 

As in Massachusetts Bay, there was widespread public opposition to 
the persecution; the persecution itself multiplied the number of Quaker 
converts. Thus, almost the entire town of Sandwich at the entrance to 
Cape Cod was converted to the Quaker faith. Barnstable, further along the 
Cape, liberally harbored and protected Quakers. Indeed, Barnstable's 
Pilgrim minister, Rev. John Lothrop, accepted as church members all 
who promised to keep the Ten Commandments. 

To deal with the troublesome Sandwich problem, the colonial govern- 


ment of Plymouth sent there as special colonial constable one George 
Barlow, soon to be notorious as the "Quaker Terror." Barlow was paid 
on a commission basis by Plymouth Colony for finding heretics. Naturally 
his zeal was unbounded. Barlow ruthlessly plundered the town of Sandwich, 
finding all suspects and disfranchising eight freemen. The people of 
Sandwich dealt with Barlow in their own good way: resisting, harassing 
him and his family, and putting him into the stocks. Finally the people 
triumphed, and Barlow was driven out of town. 

Another leading center of resistance and heresy was Duxbury, north of 
the town of Plymouth. Duxbury was a town filled with Baptist and Quaker 
converts. Here resistance to the tyranny of the Plymouth authorities 
was led by Rev. John Holmes and the Howland family. Zoeth Howland was 
put into the stocks by the authorities for criticizing the persecuting 
ministers and many citizens of Duxbury joined him in choosing to pay 
the fine rather than attend the Pilgrim church. Particularly galling to the 
despotic Governor Prence was the fact that his own daughter Elizabeth 
had fallen in love with Arthur Howland, the leading opponent of his 
tyrannical rule. Repeatedly, Prence had Howland arrested and heavily 
fined for the crime of courting Elizabeth, but Prence finally, after a 
decade, broke down and permitted their marriage. 

One of the strongest centers of liberal resistance in Plymouth was 
the town of Scituate, at the extreme north of the colony. Here the resistance 
was led by two eminent leaders of the colony, the veteran assistant 
governor, Capt. James Cudworth, and Timothy Hatherly, a member of 
the General Court for twenty years. Hatherly was summarily expelled from 
the General Court and disfranchised by the province, but the town of 
Scituate stubbornly reelected him as a deputy. The General Court, 
however, refused to seat the intractable Hatherly. Cudworth, in his turn, 
was dismissed from his high post as one of Plymouth's two commissioners 
of the United Colonies. Bitterly, Cudworth denounced the actions: "Our 
civil powers are so exercised in matters of religion and conscience that we 
have no time to effect anything that tends to the promotion of the civil 
weal/' Cudworth also attacked the establishment of a state religion as 
well as the persecution of the Quakers. But even Cudworth's protest was 
met in the familiar way: he was dismissed as assistant governor, deprived 
of his military command, and disfranchised. 

This treatment of Cudworth only swelled the tide of protest. The 
frightened magistrates decided to appoint sound and reliable Pilgrims 
in each town to argue with the Quakers and convert them. But this policy 
turned out disastrously. Deacon John Cooke, officially appointed to spy 
upon heretics, was himself converted to the Baptist faith and excom- 
municated by the Pilgrims. A much more telling blow to the authorities 
was the case of Isaac Robinson. Robinson, son of the beloved Rev. John 
Robinson, the founder of the Pilgrim sect, who had never left Leyden, 
Holland, for America, was appointed the official convincer at Sandwich. 


Instead, the would-be converter was himself converted and became a 
Quaker. The embittered magistrates denounced Robinson for "sundry 
scandals and falsehoods," dismissed him from all his offices, and deprived 
him of his rights as a freeman. 

In the end, the Quakers emerged victorious, as they did in Massachu- 
setts Bay. Town after town in Plymouth Colony eventually took it upon 
itself to grant full civil rights to the Quakers. The death of old Governor 
Prence in 1673 brought the more liberal younger generation to the fore, 
and the new governor, Major Josiah Winslow, restored all civil rights to 
the Quakers and their supporters. James Cudworth, too, was renamed 
assistant governor. The old persecuting zeal in Plymouth Colony was 



The Restoration Crisis 
in New England 

The Restoration of the Crown in May 1660 was a fateful event for 
New England. The destruction of the Puritan Revolution had ended, and 
the home country could now turn its full attention to the state of the 
American colonies. From the royal point of view the Southern colonies 
were in satisfactory order: Virginia, always of royal sympathies, had 
already restored the royal Governor Berkeley to his post; and the Calverts 
had quickly returned to control of Maryland. But in the north, the New 
England colonies appeared chaotic. Not one colony had a royal governor; 
all were self-governing, and three — Rhode Island, New Haven, and Con- 
necticut — didn't even have a proper charter. Connecticut and New Haven 
were completely without a charter, and Rhode Island's perfunctory charter 
had been granted by the Commonwealth Parliament and thus could 
hardly be deemed valid by the restored Crown. And though Charles II 
in his Declaration of Breda, preceding the Restoration, had pledged 
religious liberty, none of the Puritan or dissenting colonies of New England 
anticipated warm treatment. 

Neither were the New England colonies reassured by the English con- 
demnation of those implicated in the death of Charles I. Of those impli- 
cated fourteen, including Henry Vane and Hugh Peter, were executed, 
twenty-five committed to life imprisonment, and many others exiled 
or excluded from public office. Two of the regicides, Whalley and Goffe, 
escaped to New England, where they were protected and became the 
objects of constant complaint by the English government, which was 
convinced that the two were plotting to restore the Commonwealth. The 
news of the Restoration was, indeed, received as a calamity in New 


England, signifying at the least the end of the Puritan republic, which had 
treated these colonies almost as self-governing allies. Typical of New 
England's response to the Restoration was the comment of Roger Wil- 
liams: "The bloody whore is not yet drunk enough with blood of the 
Saints." But the New England colonies prudently decided to recognize 
the Restoration government: Rhode Island in October 1660, Connecticut 
and New Haven in March and June of 1661, and Massachusetts trailing 
them all in August 1661. 

The first order of business for the three New England charterless 
colonies was to preserve their self-government by obtaining royal charters. 
Connecticut, one of the three, determined to seize the occasion to annex 
some or most of the territory of its neighbors. John Winthrop, Jr. was 
sent to London as Connecticut's agent to try to annex all of Rhode Island, 
New Haven, and even New Netherland to the west, still in the hands of 
the Dutch. If not all of Rhode Island, then Connecticut at least tried to 
seize the Narragansett Country, about one-third of present Rhode Island — 
the territory to the southwest of Warwick and west of Narragansett 
Bay. Winthrop was particularly eager to acquire the Narragansett Country 
as he was a leading partner of the Atherton Company of Massachusetts, 
speculators whose arbitrary claims to the land were backed by Connecticut. 
This backing was quite understandable: the Atherton Company had been 
recently formed, in 1659, and had engaged in a spurious purchase of the 
choicest areas of the Narragansett Country, near Boston Neck, from the 
sachem of the Narragansett Indians. Winthrop had then proceeded to use 
his power as governor of Connecticut to add greatly to the possessions of 
himself and his partners. In the fall of 1660 Winthrop induced the New 
England Confederation to order the Narragansett Indians to pay Connect- 
icut a huge fine in wampum in compensation for various disturbances in 
the border regions. The gracious alternative offered the Indians was to 
mortgage the entire Narragansett Country to the Connecticut government. 
Captain Humphrey Atherton, a major partner of the Atherton Company, 
now in turn graciously paid the Indian fine, provided that Connecticut 
transfer the mortgage of the Narragansett Country to the company. 
By treading this path of chicanery and coercion, the Atherton Company 
managed to acquire a claim — unrecognized by Rhode Island — to the Nar- 
ragansett Country of Rhode Island. Only Connecticut jurisdiction guided 
by the company's own Winthrop could guarantee the land to the company. 

Connecticut's designs on New Haven were also made clear before 
Winthrop arrived in London. It had sent an arrogant message to the 
latter colony in early 1661, asserting "our own real and true right, to 
those parts of the country where you are seated, both by conquest, pur- 
chase and possession. . . ." 

Winthrop managed, by judicious distribution of money in London, to 
obtain for Connecticut a royal charter in May 1662. The charter con- 
firmed Connecticut's powers of self-government and left its political 


structure intact, except for restricting the franchise completely to freemen 
of the colony. The royal charter granted to Connecticut all land west of 
Narragansett Bay and south of Massachusetts. By this, Rhode Island 
territory was reduced to the tiny area of existing settlement and New 
Haven Colony, whose existence was not even mentioned by Connecticut 
in its negotiations at London, was wiped out altogether. It is quite probable 
that the new English government, in the confusion of the day, had never 
heard of New Haven Colony, and that its grant of New Haven's territory 
to Connecticut was entirely unwitting. The problem was that New Haven, 
a fading colony with an economy in decline, felt itself too poor to afford 
the expense of maintaining an agent in London, and it believed that either 
Connecticut or Massachusetts, its brothers in the New England Confedera- 
tion, would look after its interests. Very fortunately, Rhode Island did have 
an agent in London to speak up for its interest. Dr. John Clarke had re- 
mained there after Roger Williams' return to Rhode Island years before. 
When Charles II assumed the throne, Clarke had urged a new charter 
for Rhode Island, stressing its great principle of "soul liberty," or freedom 
of conscience, and shrewdly emphasizing the similarity of that principle 
to Charles' views in his Declaration of Breda. Now as soon as Clarke heard 
of the aggressive Connecticut charter gained by Winthrop, he appealed to 
the king for a charter and for review of the Connecticut document, which 
had "injuriously swallowed up one half of our colony." In response, Edward 
Hyde Clarendon, the lord chancellor, blocked the Connecticut charter 
and the dispute raged between Winthrop and Clarke, with Winthrop 
continuing to insist that the Narragansett lands belonged to Connecticut. 
Finally they submitted the dispute to five arbitrators, who awarded the 
entire Narragansett Country to Rhode Island; the Pawcatuck River was to 
be the latter's western boundary, as in the original Rhode Island patent in 
1644. The award also provided, however, that the Atherton Company 
was free to shift the jurisdiction over its land to Connecticut. John 
Winthrop, Jr.'s personal property on Fishers Island, on the boundary, 
was also carefully given to Connecticut. With Winthrop and Clarke both 
accepting the settlement in April 1663, Winthrop now joined in support 
of a royal charter for Rhode Island. Finally, in July 1663, the Crown 
granted Rhode Island its charter as a self-governing colony, including 
the Narragansett land. 

Particularly remarkable in the charter was the explicit guarantee of 
religious freedom for Rhode Island: "No person within the said colony 
was to be anywise molested, punished, disquieted or called in question 
for any differences in opinion in matters of religion, and do not actually 
disturb the civil peace." Furthermore, Rhode Island was protected 
from encroachment by Massachusetts by guarantees of freedom to trade 
with the Bay Colony. In general, the governmental changes made by the 
new royal charter were minor: the president's name was changed to 
governor, and the number of assistants or magistrates expanded from four 


to ten. The new charter, however, did cause the removal of the important 
nullification check on central government power in Rhode Island, by 
rescinding the law requiring a majority of towns to approve the laws of 
the General Court. Two years later the Crown restricted democracy further 
by requiring that suffrage in Rhode Island, as well as in the rest of New 
England, be limited to those with "competent estates." 

The Narragansett land dispute was far from over. As soon as Winthrop 
had concluded his agreement with Clarke in April, he joyfully sailed for 
home, convinced that he had outsmarted Rhode Island. By the agreement 
the Atherton Company was recognized as the owners of the Narragansett 
lands and it was granted a free choice of jurisdiction. Winthrop had no 
doubt which path his associates would choose. As soon as he landed, 
Winthrop and his partners voted to shift jurisdiction of the Narragansett 
Country from Rhode Island to Connecticut and Connecticut eagerly ac- 
cepted the gift. But, in the meanwhile, in the course of drafting the Rhode 
Island charter, Clarke had shrewdly neglected to include any mention of 
a free option to the Atherton Company. Thus, Rhode Island obtained a 
charter with unconditional jurisdiction over the Narragansett lands. 

But if Dr. Clarke did a superb job of winning rights for Rhode Island 
in the turbulent years following the Restoration, hapless New Haven 
suddenly found itself blotted from the map. Here was a treacherous blow 
indeed from its neighbor colony, and a clear violation of the terms of the 
New England Confederation. 

In addition to treachery without, New Haven was suffering increasing 
opposition within — rebellion against its extreme theocratic and oligarchic 
rule. The opposition denounced the severe limitations on suffrage and 
longed to join the more liberal and prosperous Connecticut. Francis 
Browne, for example, denounced the New Haven government and magis- 
trates and refused to obey laws not in conformity with the laws of England. 

When news of the royal grant of New Haven to Connecticut arrived in 
the fall of 1662, Connecticut issued an ultimatum to New Haven Colony to 
surrender its jurisdiction to it. The colony refused, but town after town 
now took advantage of the opportunity to shift its allegiance from New 
Haven to Connecticut. First came Southold on Long Island and then part or 
all of Stamford, Greenwich, and Guilford. By the end of 1662, the juris- 
diction of New Haven had shrunk to a fraction — to its hard core. Only the 
towns of New Haven proper, Milford, and Branford remained. 

The core of New Haven, headed by Governor William Leete and Rev. 
John Davenport, remained adamant. The freemen of the colony voted to 
keep its independence, and to appeal the decision to the king and ask for a 
charter for the colony. New Haven then took its case to the New England 
Confederation, charging Connecticut with gross violation of its terms. In 
September 1663 the Commissioners of the United Colonies voted in favor 
of New Haven and its continued independence. Connecticut, however, 
blithely ignored the verdict of the commissioners and continued to demand 


unconditional submission. New Haven, for its part, took heart in the winter 
of 1664 when the Crown's order to the colonies enjoining enforcement 
of the Navigation Acts included New Haven in its address. This seemed 
to accord implicit royal recognition of New Havens autonomy. Even the 
defection of the town of Milford to Connecticut could not dampen New 
Haven's hopes for survival. 

But in 1664 the crisis reached its culmination. The king took the first 
step down the path of ending the right of self-government in New England 
by sending four commissioners to New England in mid-1664 to try to 
enforce the navigation laws, settle disputes, and generally begin the 
process of taking over the colonies. In the meanwhile, in March the king 
decided to give to his brother James, the Duke of York, the entire huge 
area of New Netherland, which England was in the process of seizing from 
the Dutch: from the Connecticut River all the way south to Delaware 
Bay — virtually the entire middle area between New England and the 
Southern colonies of Chesapeake Bay. For good measure, James was also 
granted all of central and eastern Maine, from the Kennebec River east 
to St. Croix on the Canadian border. 

The huge grant to the Duke of York startled Connecticut, for all of 
Long Island now belonged to the duke. In 1650 New England had come to 
an amicable agreement with the Dutch for partitioning Long Island: 
three-quarters of the island east of Oyster Bay went to Connecticut or 
New Haven, and Dutch sovereignty was virtually limited to Long Island 
areas that now are Nassau County and part of New York City. Now, 
suddenly, the Long Island towns had been transferred to the Duke of 
York. But far more dangerous was the fact that James was now granted 
all land west of the Connecticut River. This meant the virtual eradication 
of the colony of Connecticut; all the significant towns in the colony, except 
New London, were located west of this river. Its charter thus completely 
negated, and being anxious to present the royal commission with a fait 
accompli, Connecticut again demanded total submission from New Haven 
and sent its agents to that colony to take over the government. 

The other colonies also wanted to settle matters as quickly as possible. 
The commissioners of the United Colonies reversed their stand in Septem- 
ber and endorsed Connecticut's appropriation of New Haven. Finally, 
in November the royal commissioners agreed and decided that all the 
New Haven area belonged to Connecticut. 

The blow was final. The Crown had decided. In December 1664 the 
New Haven General Court surrendered but under bitter protest to the 
last, denouncing the injustice imposed by Connecticut. New Haven Colony 
was ended, and the towns became part of the considerably more liberal 
colony of Connecticut. 

The most extreme and rigid Puritan theocracy in New England was thus 
no more. The Reverend John Davenport, founder and spiritual chief of 
New Haven, moved to the ministry of First Boston Church, there to end 


his days in bitter controversy, as the foremost and most relentless enemy 
of the Half-Way Covenant. As for Branford's zealous minister, Rev, 
Abraham Pierson, he had led his flock there from Southampton, Long 
Island, two decades before, when that town had decided to join the lax 
rule of Connecticut. He was not now prepared to give up the strict theo- 
cratic ideal, and so he moved his flock once more, this time to found 
another theocratic settlement in former Dutch territory at New Ark, on 
the banks of the Passaic River. 

With New Haven seized by Connecticut, the New England Confedera- 
tion came to a virtual end. Although it formally existed for twenty more 
years, its annual meetings ceased and it no longer played a significant 
role in New England affairs. 

The Massachusetts Bay Colony's authorities, with their old self-governing 
charter, had good reason meanwhile to fear the onset of the Restoration. 
Already a British command had forced Massachusetts Bay to slacken its 
persecution of the Quakers. What further encroachments might follow? 

King Charles, for his part, was determined to bring his most recalcitrant 
and independent colony to heel. Its virtual independence, its widespread 
flouting and evasion of the recently passed Navigation Acts, its oligarchic 
rule by a Puritan theocracy, its grabbing of the New Hampshire and 
Maine settlements, could only infuriate an Anglican monarch. In mid- 
1662 the king confirmed the Massachusetts charter but, vaguely and 
ominously, stressed the invalidity of all laws contrary to the laws of England. 
More substantively, the king ordered Massachusetts to permit the use of the 
(Anglican) Book of Common Prayer, and to grant the franchise to all free- 
holders of "competent estate" whether or not they were members of a Puritan 
church. By this last command, of course, the king struck at the heart of theo- 
cratic rule in Massachusetts. Massachusetts was able to obey the letter of this 
demand, but not the substance: in place of restricting voting to church 
members, the Bay Colony substituted the requirement that each non- 
member must obtain confirmation from the local minister, the town 
selectmen, and the General Court itself, that he was orthodox in religion — a 
gantlet that no one was able to run. 

Eventually, King Charles saw his opportunity to take the first fateful 
step for bringing Massachusetts to heel. In 1664 he sent an expedition 
under Col. Richard Nicolls, a veteran royalist, to America to conquer and 
seize New Netherland from the Dutch. Nicolls was to remain to govern 
New Netherland — now renamed New York — as the Duke of York's deputy. 
The king took the opportunity to name Nicolls as head of a four-man 
commission to subdue New Netherland and to inspect, regulate, and settle 
disputes in New England. 

Here was the first intrusion of English authority on New England. Both 
Massachusetts and the king saw the commission correctly — the entering 
wedge of British rule and the end of self-government, as well as the over- 
throw of the Puritan oligarchy in Massachusetts. And neither was Massa- 


chusetts reassured by the fact that one of the royal commissioners was 
Samuel Maverick. A former Boston merchant and veteran rebel against 
Massachusetts tyranny, and a signer of the Child petition, Maverick was 
a man eager to wreak vengeance against his old enemy. Professor Oliver 
Chitwood points out that in this emerging "fight between the Massachu- 
setts oligarchy and the Crown, the people stood to lose regardless of the 
outcome. If the king won, the rights covered by the charter would be lost 
to the colony as a whole. On the other hand, if the oligarchy won, it would 
be strengthened in its position and the old policy of intolerance and 
limited suffrage would continue."* Apparently Chitwood does not see the 
other side of the coin; for upon either outcome, the people also stood to 
gain — self-government and freedom from imperial rule on the one hand, 
liberation from theocracy on the other. 

The commission came armed with two sets of royal instructions: public 
and secret. The public instructions were to hear complaints, settle disputes 
between the New England colonies, and enforce the Navigation Acts. 
They also conveyed the king's good intentions to Massachusetts. The 
secret instructions, however, were to press for the election of more ame- 
nable deputies and magistrates who would approve the idea of a royal 
governor in Massachusetts. Nicolls himself was the king's preference for 
this post. The king also instructed the commissioners to insist upon 
religious toleration in New England, especially, of course, for Anglicans. 

Upon the commissioners' arrival in July 1664, Massachusetts delivered 
a ringing reply to their pretensions: Massachusetts' enemies had evidently 
persuaded the king to send a commission that could on its own discretion 
revoke the colonists' fundamental right of self-government, a right granted 
in their patent. In addition to these arguments from principle, the royal 
commissioners were subjected to personal denunciation in the colony. 
One of the commissioners, the ambitious Sir Robert Carr, was accused 
of keeping a mistress, while Col. George Cartwright was suspected of 
being a "papist." In the Puritan climate of Massachusetts Bay, it was 
difficult to know which crime was deemed the more heinous. 

The commission proceeded first to the rapid accomplishment of its 
top-priority mission — the conquest of New Netherland. The commissioners' 
next step, according to their instructions, was to outflank Massachusetts 
by bringing the weaker New England colonies into submission before 
confronting their most difficult task, Massachusetts Bay. Accordingly, 
their first step, in early 1665, was Plymouth, where the commissioners 
demanded that the franchise no longer depend on religious opinion, 
and that there be religious liberty, at least for "orthodox" Christians. 
In contrast to Massachusetts Bay, Plymouth quickly succumbed, thus 
greatly weakening the theocratic and oligarchic rule. The king warmly 
commended Plymouth for its ready compliance, but not without a pointed 

•Oliver P. Chitwood, A History of Colonial America, 3rd ed. (New York: Harper, 1961), 
p. 219. 


reference to her errant sister: "Your carriage seems to be set off with the 
more lustre by the contrary deportment of the colony of the Massachu- 
setts. . . ." 

The next step was to settle the still raging boundary dispute over the 
Narragansett Country; the commission was granted power to override 
any previous royal charter. Connecticut and the Atherton Company were 
still actively claiming the land. The Crown had advised the commissioners 
to take the Narragansett Country away from both Connecticut and Rhode 
Island and to make it a direct royal province, with the Atherton claim 
continuing in force. At the end of March the commissioners rendered 
their decision, amending their instructions significantly. For although 
the Narragansett Country was indeed awarded directly to the Crown and 
called 'King's Province," the commissioners decided to compensate 
Rhode Island for the loss by authorizing it independently to govern the 
province in the king's stead. Moreover, they were convinced by Rhode 
Island's demonstration of the fraudulent nature of the Atherton Company's 
purchase of the tract from the Indians. The commissioners, therefore, 
boldly vacated the arbitrary Atherton claim and ordered the company 
proprietors off the territory. (Sir Robert Carr, however, demonstrated his 
buccaneering bent by asking the Crown to grant him title to a large tract 
of the best Narragansett grazing land.) Winthrop, however, managed to 
persuade Nicolls, who had not been present, to get the Atherton decision 
reversed. But at least Rhode Island was left in charge of the territory. 

The commissioners' other major impact on Rhode Island was, as we 
have seen, the compulsory narrowing of suffrage to those of 'competent 
estates." Rhode Island needed no prodding, of course, to agree to what 
they already had: permission for all the orthodox to have churches of 
their own choosing. 

Apart from the Atherton decision, the commissioners' rulings were 
quite satisfactory to Connecticut. We have already seen the commissioners' 
role in the liquidation of New Haven. The commissioners were told by 
Connecticut that it already met the requirements of giving the right to 
vote to all "men of competent estates," even if not church members, and 
of permitting full religious liberty to those of orthodox belief and "civil 
lives." While it was true, however, that Connecticut had been far more 
democratic than Massachusetts in granting the vote to nonchurch mem- 
bers, it had hardly permitted full religious freedom to non-Puritans. In 
return for their ready compliance with the commissioners' requests, Con- 
necticut and Rhode Island were, like Plymouth, favored with a message 
from King Charles complimenting them on their good behavior. 

Their business with the southern New England colonies speedily and 
satisfactorily concluded, the commissioners turned their attention to their 
major problem — Massachusetts Bay. Confronting the Massachusetts 
General Court in May 1665, the commissioners soon realized that this 
colony would be winning no good-conduct medals from the king. The 


commissioners put forth their demands: that they proposed to act as an 
appeals court for Massachusetts cases; that, as the other colonies had done, 
Massachusetts adopt an oath of allegiance to the king; that it grant full 
religious liberty to Anglicans; and that it observe the Navigation Acts. 
The commissioners also demanded that Massachusetts really eliminate 
its prohibition against voting by nonchurch members- 
Led by Governor Richard Bellingham, Massachusetts flatly refused 
each one of these royal demands. Massachusetts' charter, it further 
declared, gave the Bay Colony absolute power to make laws and administer 
justice; therefore, any appellate activity by the commission would be an 
intolerable breach of Massachusetts' rights. The commissioners angrily 
retorted that they were the direct agents of the king, the very royal 
authority responsible for the charter. Does Massachusetts deny the 
authority of the royal commission? Massachusetts answered, in a master- 
piece of evasion and pseudohumility, that it was beyond its capacity 
or function to pass on the validity of the commission. 

The commissioners decided to take the bull by the horns, and set 
themselves up as an appellate court, in the house of Capt. Thomas Breedon, 
to hear grievances against Massachusetts. But the General Court moved 
swiftly, proclaiming "by the sound of the trumpet" outside the Breedon 
house that this action was a breach of the royal charter and of Massachu- 
setts' rights, and could not gain the General Court's consent. 

Defeated and frustrated, the commissioners left Boston, but with this 
warning of things to come: "The King did not grant away his sovereignty 
over you when he made you a corporation. When His Majesty gave you 
power to make wholesome laws and to administer justice by them, he 
parted not with his right to judge whether the laws were wholesome . . . 
'tis possible that the charter that you so much idolize may be forfeited, 
until you have cleared yourselves of those many injustices, oppressions, 
violences, and blood for which you are complained against." 

With Col. Richard Nicolls returning to New York to take up his post 
as governor, the other commissioners proceeded northward, to try to 
disrupt Massachusetts' rule over the New Hampshire and Maine settle- 
ments. Beyond obtaining a few signatures on a petition to the king for 
relief from Massachusetts' rule, the commissioners accomplished little in 
the New Hampshire towns, even though accompanied by agents of the 
proprietary claimant to New Hampshire, Robert T. Mason. The towns of 
Portsmouth and Dover, in fact, sent for some Massachusetts magistrates to 
emphasize their solidarity with Massachusetts. This was not surprising 
because New Hampshire was dominated by an oligarchy of Massachusetts 
merchants — for example, Valentine Hill and the Waldron family— who had 
moved to the Piscataqua to engage in the flourishing timber and fish 
trade. The oligarchy was either appointed by the Massachusetts General 
Court or elected by a highly limited franchise. A dozen petitioners from 
Portsmouth complained to the commission that under Massachusetts "five 


or six of the richest men of this parish have ruled and ordered all offices, 
both civil and military, at their pleasure, and none durst make opposition 
for fear of great fines or long imprisonment." In particular, the opposition 
attacked the theocratic Puritan rule and pleaded for the right to worship 
as Anglicans and for the right to vote. The greatest fire of the petitioners 
was leveled at Dover's Puritan minister, Rev. Joshua Moody. The peti- 
tioners also asked for a union of New Hampshire with Maine, where the 
settlements had similar problems. 

If some merchants were privileged members of the New Hampshire 
oligarchy, so also merchants like Francis Champernowne headed the 
petition and merchants like Pynchon and Bradstreet defended the 
petitioners in the Massachusetts court. But all to no avail. For as soon as 
the commissioners left, .he Massachusetts authorities began to arrest 
the leading petitioners and complainants. Thus, the Portsmouth distiller 
Abraham Corbett was hauled into court "to answer for his tumultuous 
and seditious practices against his government." 

Pickings were more fruitful for the commission, however, in the Maine 
towns, which had been seized by Massachusetts only a decade before, and 
where the preponderance of anti-Puritan settlers and fishermen kept 
resentment high. Finding Maine discontented with Massachusetts' rule, 
the commissioners proceeded to organize an independent government at 
York for the eight Maine towns. The commissioners were armed with a 
royal letter commanding the surrender of the Maine towns to the juris- 
diction of Ferdinando Gorges, grandson and heir of the previous proprietor, 
and John Archdale accompanied the commission as an agent of Gorges 
to see that the order was carried out. 

Traveling further east to the Duke of York's new province east of the 
Kennebec river (now central and eastern Maine), the commissioners then 
organized a government, under the duke, of the few scattered inhabitants, 
and named the territory Cornwall. 

Before disbanding, the commissioners sent their report to the Crown 
in December 1665. In it they attacked Massachusetts' intransigence and 
recommended revocation of the Bay Colony charter. They also recom- 
mended direct royal government for New Hampshire and Maine, and 
praised the cooperative attitude of other New England colonies. 

The commissioners' report, however, proved to be ill-fated. One ill 
omen: none of the commissioners arrived home with the report. Maverick 
settled down in New York, Carr died shortly after, and Cartwright, traveling 
to England with the report, was captured at sea by the Dutch. More 
significantly, the king found this an inopportune time to tangle with 

The Dutch had naturally taken umbrage at England's sudden seizure of 
New Netherland at a time when the two countries were at peace. And 
in the ensuing war with the Dutch, England bore heavy losses and ex- 
penses, especially as the French entered on the side of the Dutch. A great 


plague also devastated London and southern England, and later in the year 
a great fire destroyed two-thirds of the housing of London. Furthermore, 
clamor was rising against the king's lord chancellor, the despotic Earl of 
Clarendon, soon to be ousted and to flee into exile. With all the turmoil 
in England, Charles decided to let the Massachusetts matter go for the 
time being. In April 1666 he asked Massachusetts to send an agent to 
England to answer the commissioners' charges. Massachusetts brusquely 
replied that it had already given all its explanations to the commissioners 
and now had nothing to add. The Bay Colony did, as a sweetener, send 
to the Crown for the royal navy a gift of two large expensive masts, worth 
about two thousand pounds, from the New Hampshire forests. 

Massachusetts' refusal had not been decided upon without opposition. 
Leading citizens of a few Massachusetts towns counseled obedience to 
the king's order. Of the Boston petitioners against defiance, the over- 
whelming majority were: (a) merchants, and (b) nonfreemen, and hence 
nonvoters and non-Puritan church members. Thus, the counsel of caution 
came largely from the groups most prominent in strong opposition to the 
rule of the existing oligarchy. 

Despite the defiance of Massachusetts, the king now dropped the matter 
and pursued the colony no further. At home the hated Earl of Clarendon 
fell from power in 1667, to be succeeded by the Cabal ministry, in which 
Anthony Ashley Cooper, later Earl of Shaftesbury, was the most influential 
official on colonial affairs. And since Lord Ashley was himself an active 
proprietor of the new Carolina grant, it was to his interest to minimize 
royal interference in the colonies. Influential fellow colonial proprietors 
like the Duke of York, furthermore, were interested more in exploring 
their own proprietary claims than in bringing the colonies to heel. The 
Massachusetts government had triumphed — for the short run. 

Even the one victory of the commissioners over Massachusetts Bay — the 
separation of Maine — turned out to be short-lived. During the Anglo-Dutch 
war, support for Massachusetts in Maine increased out of fear of the 
Indians friendly to the French and French-Catholic missionaries. Also, 
realizing that England, in the wake of war and the fall of Clarendon, was 
in no mind to intervene, Massachusetts, in the spring of 1668, took steps 
forcibly to reincorporate the Maine towns into the Bay Commonwealth. 
Four leaders of the General Court went to York and there reimposed 
Massachusetts' rule on Maine. Massachusetts now ruled triumphant, 
without a single defeat at the hands of the Crown. 

One of the most far-reaching actions of the first years of the Restoration 
was a series of Navigation Acts, by which England imposed mercantilist 
restrictions on its empire. Attempting to eliminate the more efficient 
Dutch shipping from the American trade for the benefit of the London 
merchants, the Puritan Parliament in 1650-51 had prohibited foreign 
vessels from trading with America; goods to and from the colonies could 
only be carried on English or colonial ships, or on ships of the home 


country of growth or manufacture. Fish imports and exports from England 
were limited to English ships alone. As part of the Restoration compromise, 
Charles II continued to gratify the London merchants and passed a series 
of Navigation Acts in 1660-63- Part of the commissioners' instructions, 
indeed, was to see to the enforcement of these acts. 

The new Navigation Acts drastically restricted and monopolized 
American colonial trade, to the detriment of the colonies. The Navigation 
Act of 1660-61: (1) restricted all colonial trade to "English" ships (English 
and American), that is, ships built, owned, and manned by Englishmen; 
(2) excluded all foreign merchants from American trade; and (3) required 
that certain enumerated colonial articles be exported only to England 
and English colonies. We have already seen the havoc caused in the 
Southern colonies by tobacco being made one of the enumerated goods. 
Among the others were sugar, cotton-wool, and various dyes. The second 
important Navigation Act was the Staple Act of 1663, which provided 
that all goods exported from Europe to America must first land in England. 
Only a few colonial imports were exempt from this prohibition: salt, 
servants, various provisions from Scotland, and wine from Madeira and 
the Azores. The Staple Act meant that English ships and merchants would 
monopolize exports to America, while English manufacturers selling to 
America would be privileged by extra taxes being levied at English ports 
on foreign exports to the colonies. The enumerated-articles provision 
insured that these staples would be exported only by English merchants 
and in English ships. The English seizure of New Netherland was partly 
designed to complement the Navigation Act by crushing the Dutch freight 
trade with the New World. 

The immediate impact of these acts on New England merchants and the 
New England economy was not great. New England imports were largely 
manufactured goods from England anyway, and thus were not greatly 
affected. And the restrictions — such as the enumerated articles and the 
prohibition of direct imports of wines from the Canary Islands — were 
simply ignored. The Massachusetts merchants blithely continued to ship 
enumerated articles direct to European ports — for example, tobacco to 
Holland — and to import goods direct from Europe. The New England 
merchants were happily able to save the South from immediate devastation 
at the hands of the Navigation Acts by first importing Southern tobacco 
to Boston and then exporting it direct to foreign countries. In this way, 
the South, for a time, was enabled to avoid the drastic burden of the 
Navigation Acts. The distracted English government did not attempt to 
enforce any of these restrictions until the Anglo-Dutch wars were over 
in the mid- 1670s. The position of the merchants was backed fully by the 
Massachusetts General Court, which declared that it simply was not sub- 
ject to "the laws of England any more than we live in England." On this 
issue the Boston merchants and the Puritan theocracy were allied: the 


former to prevent British restrictions on their trade, the latter to keep 
England from interfering with the Puritan regime in Massachusetts. 

Indeed, the Massachusetts merchants, able to avoid the restrictions of 
the Navigation Acts, were also able to take advantage of the provisions 
driving out their efficient Dutch competitors. The London merchants, 
having used governmental power to crush Dutch competitors, suddenly 
found to their dismay the Massachusetts merchants outcompeting them 
in marketing colonial products in Europe, in shipping, and in supplying 
the colonies with imported manufactures — including European products 
competing with English goods. The king's revenue was of course diminished 
by direct trade with Europe, because the taxes levied at English ports 
were avoided. 

The most flourishing trade in New England during the Dutch wars of 
the 1660s and 1670s was the essentially uneconomic supplying of war 
contracts to provision the English attempts at conquest. Massachusetts' 
major provisions were naval stores, especially masts, channeled through 
Portsmouth, New Hampshire. This became the biggest business seen in 
New England up to that time. Once again, London merchants were the 
key entrepreneurs in this trade, using their influence to obtain government 
war contracts. The most favored Massachusetts merchants were those 
with connections to the London contractors. The leading New England 
mast supplier was Peter Lidget, but the Massachusetts mast industry was 
able to flourish largely because it was highly competitive and not centrally 
organized. In 1670, for example, Richard Wharton was able to obtain for 
his company a ten-year monopoly of the supply of naval stores (including 
masts) in Massachusetts and Plymouth, but the endeavor quickly failed 
because the grant of privilege was impossible to enforce. Once again the 
market process was able to dissolve even a monopoly created by govern- 
ment privilege. 


Part IV 

The Rise and Fall of 
New Netherland 


The Formation of New Netherland 

The British seizure of New Netherland — the vast if thinly settled Dutch 
territory in North America — wrought a permanent change in the pattern 
of English colonization in the New World. The grant of this vast area to 
the proprietorship of the Duke of York, younger brother of Charles II, and 
its seizure by Col Richard Nicolls in 1664, brought under English control 
a great land area that much later was to constitute the "middle colonies." 

How had New Netherland been formed? Seventeenth-century Dutch 
policies cannot be fully comprehended without recognizing the fierce 
and continuing political divisions within the Dutch republic over constitu- 
tional and foreign policies. Early in their long revolutionary struggle 
against Spain for religious toleration, freedom from taxation, and inde- 
pendence from central imperial rule, the seven northern Dutch-speaking 
Calvinist provinces of the Netherlands had established a loose confedera- 
tion. Governing these United Provinces was a States-General representing 
the completely autonomous provincial legislatures or states. Not being 
burdened by the overweening state power of the other European countries, 
the Dutch maritime cities, especially those in the provinces of Holland 
and Zeeland, were able to forge the greatest economic progress in Europe. 
The Dutch freely engaged in trade throughout Europe, even after Spain's 
union with Portugal had cut off their supplies of spices, sugar, and salt 
from the East Indies, Brazil, and the West Indies. The war against Spain, 
however, continued even after Spanish troops had been driven from the 
northern provinces, after the ten Catholic southern provinces had gained 
recognition of their rights by Spain, and after France and then England 
had determined to make peace with Spain. The struggle for national 


liberation thus became transformed into a war of Dutch aggression against 
the southern provinces. A regular standing army was developed, serving 
to expand the executive power in the central government, as well as 
central government power over the constitutionally independent provincial 
governments. Thus, the central executive, not to mention the officer class 
of the army, had a vested interest in continuing the war. This continuation 
of the war for the benefit of the executive-military authorities forced the 
syndicates of merchants who had successfully and rapidly developed 
private trade to the East Indies to seek a means of mutual defense from 
attacks by the Spanish or Portuguese fleets. Under the leadership of 
Amsterdam, these syndicates or chambers created the United East India 
Company in March 1602. This company, under the control of the local 
chambers, organized joint voyages to the East Indies for their mutual 
protection during wartime. After the war, however, the company became 
a monopoly for governing Dutch settlements in the Indies. 

The fundamental cleavage in the politics of the United Provinces 
developed when the merchants of the cities of Holland and of other 
provinces, led by the foremost Dutch statesman, Johan van Oldenbarne- 
veldt, successfully pursued peace negotiations with Spain despite the 
complete opposition of the Dutch military leaders. The Dutch merchants 
desired peace in order to end the threat of military dictatorship and the 
burden of taxes, and to gain access to world markets through free and 
peaceful trade. These merchants formed the basis of the Republican party, 
standing for liberal principles of peace, free trade, liberty, and, in particular, 
the maintenance of the original Dutch confederation of towns and 
provinces. In that confederation, each level of governmental power was 
strictly limited by the application of a virtual unanimity principle. The 
Republicans, furthermore, tended to be Arminians, following the liberal 
Dutch Protestant theologian Jacobus Arminius, who emphasized free will, 
natural law, and religious toleration as over against the Calvinist doctrines 
of predestination and state enforcement of religious conformity. 

Opposition to the peace negotiations with Spain was centered in the 
Orange party, composed largely of gentry dependent upon their lucrative 
and powerful military positions and whose leader was the Prince of 
Orange, the military commander of the Netherlands. The Orange party 
sought greater powers for the central government, a strong standing army, 
and ultimately the substitution of an Orange monarchy for the republican 
confederation. Allied with the nobility and military in the Orange party 
was the great part of the Calvinist ministers; the Orange party, in fact, 
was often termed the "Calvinist party." The Calvinist ministers found 
the discipline of war more suitable to Calvinist practices than was the 
increased standard of living resulting from peaceful trade. Furthermore, 
a strong central government, resulting from war, was seen as the best 
means of enforcing religious conformity, especially against the Arminians, 
who were protected by the provincial independence of Holland. 


Holland was the center of strength of the Republican party, containing 
as it did the least influence by nobles or the military and the greatest 
commercial and maritime strength. The Orange party, however, had strong 
support even in the cities of Holland from Calvinist emigres from southern 
Netherlands, largely French-speaking Walloons who formed an important 
and wealthy part of the population. Like most emigre's throughout history, 
the bulk of the southerners were not content to live in the free atmosphere 
of their newfound home. Instead, unable to persuade the majority of their 
original countrymen of the justice of their cause, they tried to win by 
dragging their new fellow citizens into war and thus riding to power on 
the backs of foreign troops and guns. Emigre's always tend to constitute a 
menace to those who graciously welcome their migration. In the Dutch 
republic, the Orange party had strong support from the southern emigres, 
whooping for a war of aggression against the Spanish Netherlands to 
"liberate" the reluctant Catholics in behalf of Calvinism. 

The peace negotiated by the Dutch Republicans, the Twelve Year Truce 
of Antwerp (April 1609), gained the recognition by Spain of the virtual 
independence of the United Provinces and of the right of the Dutch to 
engage in Eastern trade similar to the right won by England in the treaty 
of 1604. Also in 1609 the Dutch East India Company hired the English 
explorer Henry Hudson to find a northeast arctic route to the Orient. 
Hudson was instructed not to seek a northwest passage through North 
America, as the Republican-run company was anxious to avoid any danger 
to peace with Spain by challenging Spain's imperial claims in the New 
World. Disobeying his instructions, Hudson, on failing to find a northeast 
route, sailed to North America and explored, among other areas, Delaware 
Bay and the Hudson River as far north as the fur trading region near 

Since fur was a leading commodity in Dutch trade from Scandinavia 
and Russia, the new possibility of a cheaper American source spurred the 
remarkably enterprising Amsterdam merchants into action. During the 
next four years many Amsterdam merchants outfitted small ships and 
engaged in a very profitable fur trade with the Indians, in exchange for 
beads and cloth. These individual traders also founded a settlement on 
Manhattan Island, explored first by Adriaen Block in 1613. In 1614 thirteen 
of the Amsterdam merchants there engaged in the America trade, banded 
together, and managed to secure from the states of Holland and Friesland 
a monopoly of all trade in America for the space of six voyages. Soon 
afterward, these merchants strengthened their hold by forming the United 
New Netherland Company and obtaining from the States-General a three- 
year monopoly of all American trade in the area between New France in 
the north and the Delaware River, 

One of the first acts of the New Netherland Company was to found a 
settlement vital to the fur trade, far up the Hudson River at Fort Nassau 
(later Fort Orange, now the site of Albany), near the junction of the Hudson 


and Mohawk rivers. The fort was built on the site of an old ruined trading 
post, which had been erected about 1540 by French fur traders and soon 
abandoned. In 1618 the commandant of Fort Nassau came to a significant 
agreement with the chiefs of the mighty Iroquois Indians — the Five 
Nations. In this durable treaty, the Dutch and Iroquois agreed to trade 
peacefully in muskets and ammunition in exchange for fur. 

The New Netherland Company tried to renew its monopoly in 1618, 
but heated opposition by excluded merchants blocked an extended grant, 
and the American fur trade was then thrown open again to the competition 
of individual merchants, albeit under license of the government. To its 
pleased surprise the New Netherland Company found that it prospered 
even more under the bracing air of competition, and the company now 
laid plans for further expansion. 

At this point, however, Dutch affairs took a fateful turn. The Orange 
parry, rallying the army officers (largely gentry dependent upon military 
posts), used the theological disagreements between Arminians and 
Calvinists to effect a coup and overthrow the republican constitution in 
1619- Using its narrow 4-3 majority in the States-General, based on control 
of the rural Calvinist provinces, the Orange party had convoked a national 
synod of the Dutch Reformed Church. When the synod condemned and 
ordered the persecution of the Arminian theologians, the state of Holland 
refused to approve, using its well-founded constitutional independence to 
safeguard the principle of religious toleration. At that point, Prince 
Maurice of Orange and his army attacked Holland and arrested Olden- 
barneveldt and other Republican leaders, including Hugo Grotius, the 
founder of international law. A reign of terror was instituted by the Orange 
parry: the venerable Oldenbarneveldt was tried illegally, with no provision 
for defense, and executed for treason in May 1619. The Arminian leaders, 
moreover, were persecuted and exiled. 

The now dominant Orange party proceeded to renew its aggression 
against the southern Netherlands upon expiration of the truce in 1621, and 
proposed to carry the war to the American possessions of Spain and Portu- 
gal. At this point there came to the fore an eminent Walloon emigre mer- 
chant, William Usselincx, who for thirty years had propagandized for the 
establishment of a Dutch West India Company to establish colonies in 
South America for reaping such valuable tropical products as sugar and 
tobacco. In June 1621 the States-General chartered the Dutch West 
India Company under Orange control with the aim of plundering and 
conquering the Spanish and Portuguese colonies and monopolizing the 
slave trade. Although modeled on the Dutch East India Company, the 
West India Company was a pure creation of the state to achieve military 
objectives; the state contributed half the capital and ships and forced the 
rest of the capital and ships from reluctant Dutch merchants. In place of 
the independent Dutch merchants (such as the New Netherland Company), 
who had gained an important smuggling trade to Brazil and the Caribbean 


and a free trade to the Hudson River, a monopoly of Dutch trade with and 
between the Atlantic coasts of Africa and the Americas was now granted 
to the new company. The company was also granted a monopoly of all 
colonization in America. A government in the form of a commercial 
company, this overseas instrument of Orange aggression possessed govern- 
mental and feudal powers — to rule its arbitrarily granted territories, to 
legislate, to make treaties, to make war and peace, to maintain military 
forces and fleets of warships in order to plunder, conquer, and colonize. 
Only the company's appointed governor general had to be approved by 
the States-General. Dominant on the board of nineteen directors was the 
Amsterdam Chamber of the Company, which owned over forty percent of 
the capital and thus became the effective ruler of New Netherland. 

Engaged in forming the huge Dutch West India Company, the States- 
General had no interest in granting the request made in 1620 by the 
English Pilgrims residing in Leyden, Holland, for founding a colony on 
Manhattan Island. Their proposal rejected, the Pilgrims soon ended their 
wanderings by landing at Plymouth, Massachusetts. 

The Dutch West India Company mostly concentrated on the Atlantic 
colonies of Portugal in Brazil and Angola, for Brazil was the major source 
of European sugar and Africa supplied the slaves who produced that sugar. 
The company, in fact, temporarily captured Bahia in Brazil in 1624. When 
a company fleet captured the Spanish silver fleet in 1628, the money was 
used to finance the Dutch conquest of northeastern Brazil, beginning with 
Recife in 1630, and of the Portuguese ports of Luanda (near the lower 
Congo) and Benguela in Angola, Goree and Elmina in West Africa. The 
company established colonies on the Guiana coast and in the unoccupied 
islands in the Caribbean, St. Eustatius, and Tobago in 1632 and Curasao 
in 1634. The governor at Curacao for the next decade was Peter Stuy- 
vesant, who had been in the military service of the company for many 
years. Thus, the Dutch West India Company had many valuable and im- 
portant interests, of which the colony of New Netherland was one of the 
least valued. 



Governors and Government 

The Dutch West India Company began operations in 1623, and in the same 
year the first party of permanent Dutch settlers landed in the New World — 
apart from a settlement near Cape May on the Delaware Bay in 1614. The 
new colonists landed in Manhattan. Others in the party settled in Fort 
Orange, The settlers, significantly, were a party of Walloon emigres. 
Appointed governor, or director general, of New Netherland was Capt. Cor- 
nelis May. Under May's aegis the Dutch quickly began to expand over the 
vast virgin territory. Fort Nassau was built on the east bank of the Delaware 
River (now Gloucester, New Jersey, opposite Philadelphia). Another Dutch 
party built Fort Good Hope on the Connecticut River, and we have seen the 
fate meted out to it by the English "planters" of Connecticut. Still other 
Dutchmen settled on what is now the coast of Brooklyn and on Staten Island. 

Why didn't the English, who had laid claim to the whole coast, seriously 
molest the Dutch settlements? For the first decade the English were busy 
fighting with Spain and France. After that came the troubles and distrac- 
tions of the Puritan Revolution. It was only the advent of the Restoration 
period that enabled England to turn serious attention to exerting its power 
over New Netherland — as well as over Massachusetts. 

In the spring of 1626 Peter Minuit took over as director general, and it 
was he who, in a series of fateful decisions, laid the pattern of social structure 
for New Netherland. In the English colonies the chartered companies and 
proprietors tried to gain immediate profits by inducing rapid settlement. 
The need for these inducements led to the inevitable dissolution of original 
attempts to maintain feudal land tenure, as lands were divided up and sold, 
and halfhearted attempts to collect feudal quitrents from the settlers were 


abandoned in the face of their stubborn evasion and resistance. Moreover, 
the need for inducing settlement also led the companies or proprietors to 
grant, from the beginning, substantial rights of democracy and self-govern- 
ment to the colonists. Happily, none of the English settlements began as 
royal colonies; either they were settled by individuals, for individual tem- 
poral or spiritual gain, or they were governed by profit-seeking companies or 
proprietors who were induced by hopes of profit to grant substantial or even 
controlling rights of property and self-government to the settlers. North 
Carolina, New Hampshire, Maine, Rhode Island, and Connecticut began 
as individual self-governing settlements; Virginia and Massachusetts as 
chartered companies; Maryland and South Carolina as proprietorships. 

But the Dutch West India Company and Minuit decided quite differently. 
As profit seekers they first concentrated on their monopoly of the lucrative 
fur trade, and for this trade extensive settlements were not needed. 
Whether by design or not, the effect of Dutch policy was to discourage settle- 
ment greatly, and to hamper the development of the vast area over which 
the Dutch West India Company had been assigned its monopoly. For example, 
one of Minuit's first actions was to order the colonists back, to concen- 
trate them around the fort in New Amsterdam on the tip of Manhattan, 
which had been purchased from the Indians. This arbitrary policy left only a 
few traders at Fort Orange and only one vessel on the Delaware, Fort Nassau 
being completely abandoned. This action stemmed from the company's 
high-handed decision to retain its exclusive monopoly of trade; to leave too 
many individuals in the interior would foster illegal, competitive trading. 
Second, the Dutch perpetuated a feudal type of land tenure by insisting on 
leasing, rather than selling, land to the settlers. It is no wonder that with no 
settler permitted to own his land and thus help to dissolve feudalism and 
land monopoly — and with no one permitted to trade on his own account — 
the pace of settlement was very slow. 

Furthermore, the form of government was by far the most despotic in 
the colonies. There was no self-government or democrary, no limitation 
whatever on the arbitrary rule of the company and its director general. The 
director, along with a Council of Five appointed by the Amsterdam Chamber, 
ran the entire government; its legislative, executive, and judicial functions. 
They were joined by two other officials appointed by the company: the 
Sch out -Fiscal, who made arrests and collected revenue, and the Koopman, 
the secretary of the colony. There were no legislatures or town meetings of 
any sort. 

By 1629 it was evident that the colony was growing very slowly, only 
300 persons, for example, lived in New Amsterdam. The company therefore 
decided to spur settlement, but instead of dissolving its land monopoly into 
a system of true private property for landed settlers, it decided to make the 
monopoly into a more elaborate feudal structure, sub-land monopolists placed 
over large particular areas in New Netherland. In the Charter of Privileges 
and Exemptions of 1629, the company decided to grant extensive tracts of 


land to any of its members who should bring over and settle fifty or more 
families on the tract. The tracts were required to lie along the banks of the 
Hudson (or other navigable rivers) and were granted in huge lots of sixteen 
miles along one shore of the Hudson, or eight miles on both shores. The depth 
on either side of the Hudson was indefinite. The grantee was termed a 
"patroon," or lord of the manor. In imitation of the feudal lord, the patroon 
was to possess civil and criminal jurisdiction over his tenants, or "peas- 
ants." The tenants had the formal right of appeal from the patroon s manorial 
courts to the feudal overlord — the company's government — but in practice 
the tenants were forced to forgo this right. The property of any tenant dying 
intestate reverted to the patroon, and the tenant was forced to grind his 
grain at his patroon's mill. The tenants were exempted from colonial taxa- 
tion for ten years, but in return they were compelled to stay on the original 
estate for the entire period. To leave was illegal — an approximation of 
medieval serfdom. 

Aside from being a temporary serf and having no hope of owning the land 
he tilled, the tenant was also prohibited from weaving any kind of woolen, 
linen, or cotton cloth. Even the patroons were prohibited from weaving, 
in order to keep the monopoly of the trade in the hands of the company gov- 
ernment and to maintain a monopoly of the colonial market for Dutch 
textiles. This provision, however, was continually evaded and led to numer- 
ous conflicts. Neither tenant nor patroon could engage in the fur trade, 
which was still reserved to the company and its agents. Apart from these 
commodities, the patroons were at liberty to trade, but were required to 
pay a five percent duty to the government at New Amsterdam for exporting 
their goods. The use of slaves in domestic service or in tilling the soil was 
also sanctioned. The patroons were required, however, to purchase the 
granted land from the local Indians. It should be noted that Manhattan 
Island was exempted from the granting of patroonships: the land of that val- 
uable island was to be reserved for the direct monopoly of the company 
government of the province. 

While the incentive to become a tenant remained minimal, the incentive 
to become a patroon was now considerable. It should not be surprising that 
the receivers of these handsome grants of special privilege were leaders 
or favorites of the company itself. Thus, the first patroonship was granted by 
the company to two members of its own board of directors, Samuel Godyn, 
president of the Amsterdam Chamber of the Company, and Samuel 
Blommaert, who granted themselves a large chunk of what is now the state 
of Delaware, as well as sixteen square miles on Cape May across the Del- 
aware Bay. Godyn and Blommaert took five other company directors into 
partnership to expand the capital of the patroonship, and one of the part- 
ners, Capt. David De Vries, was sent with a group of settlers to found the 
patroonship of Swanendael (now Lewes), near Cape Henlopen in Delaware. 

The Swanendael manor was settled in 1631, but the settlement soon ran 
into difficulties. For one thing, it was chiefly designed as a whaling station, 


but De Vries soon found that whales were scarce along the Delaware coast. 
Furthermore, the Swanendael settlers managed to provoke the Indians into 
attacking and massacring them. The settlers had emptied a pillow, leaving 
the remains as waste, which happened to contain a piece of tin embossed 
with the emblem of the States-General of New Netherland. An Indian 
chief found the abandoned tin and used it for his tobacco pipe, whereupon 
the settlers, in an act unexcelled for stupidity even in the sordid history of 
white treatment of Indians, executed the hapless chief for "treason ' to 
the Netherlands. It is hardly puzzling that the Indians proceeded to attack 
and wipe out the settlement. In addition to these calamities, the patroons 
then quarreled and dissolved their partnership. They sold the land back to 
the company government in 1634 for a handsome 15,000 guilders. The first 
patroonship in New Netherland had proved to be a failure. 

The second patroonship was also a failure. Michael Pauw, another of the 
grasping company directors, managed to obtain a grant for himself of the 
area that now includes Hoboken, Jersey City, and the whole of Staten 
Island. Pauw called his colony Pavonia, which he organized on the site of 
Jersey City for a few years. The Indians, however, proved troublesome and 
the patroonship was losing money, and so in 1637 Pauw sold the land back to 
the obliging company for 26,000 guilders (land, of course, that the company 
had originally granted Pauw as a gift). 

The first successful patroonship — and the only one that continued past the 
demise of New Netherland and through the eighteenth century — was the 
grant to yet another Amsterdam Chamber director, the wealthy jeweler 
Kiliaen van Rensselaer. Van Rensselaer's domain, Rensselaerswyck, 
prospered because of superior management and because its area was 
strategically located for fur trade with the Iroquois. It included virtually 
the entire area around Albany (now Albany and Rensselaer counties) 
except Fort Orange itself, which remained the property of the company 

Immediately there began conflicts between the Hudson River patroons 
and the government. For the patroons began to ignore the Dutch West 
India company's legal monopoly of the highly lucrative fur trade, and 
the company began to tighten its regulations to enforce its monopoly. 
The patroons' illegal fur trade not only endangered the company monopoly; 
it also led them to concentrate on furs rather than encourage a large 
agricultural population, which the company government was now trying 
to foster. As a consequence, Peter Minuit was fired as director general by 
the company in 1632, on charges of being too soft on the patroons. 

Succeeding Minuit was Wouter Van Twiller, a clerk in the company's 
Amsterdam warehouse, chosen because he had married into the power- 
ful Van Rensselaer family. Conflicts with the patroons over fur trading 
continued in the Van Twiller regime. Externally, New England began the 
process of overrunning Fort Good Hope on the Connecticut River. However, 
the English occupation of the abandoned Fort Nassau, on the east bank of the 


Delaware, was ended as Van Twiller reoccupied the fort and drove out the 
settlers. Further Dutch expansion took place during the Van Twiller admin- 
istration: Arendt Corssen erected Beaver Road Fort on what is now the 
Pennsylvania side of the Delaware. 

A good part of the expansion of land was accomplished for the benefit 
of Governor Van Twiller himself. He and his friends were given land grants 
and purchased large speculative tracts of land from the Indians. The tracts 
were concentrated on western Long Island, notably in the present Flatlands 
of Brooklyn. Van Twiller himself purchased Governors Island. None of these 
purchases was approved, as was legally required, by the Amsterdam Cham- 
ber of the Company. What is more, the director saw to it that his own farms 
received the best services from the government. 

In addition to the conflicts over land irregularities and fur trading, the 
Schout-Fiscal opposed the director's methods. When Van Twiller fired the 
Schout-Fiscal, Lubbertus Van Dincklagen, the latter complained to the 
States-General. Furthermore, although some tobacco was now growing on 
Manhattan Island, the emphasis on the fur trade was helping to discourage 
agriculture and permanent settlement. The States-General, perturbed 
that emphasis on fur was discouraging permanent settlement in New 
Netherland, ordered the dismissal of Wouter Van Twiller in 1637. 

But if the Dutch colonists had been chastised with whips, they were now 
to be chastised with scorpions. Arriving in 1638, the new director, Amster- 
dam merchant Willem Kiefft, proceeded to impose an absolute despotism 
upon the colony. First, he reduced his council of advisers from five to one, 
and on this rump council of his adviser and himself, he had two votes. To 
appeal his decisions to the Netherlands was now made a high crime. As- 
sured of absolute power to issue his decrees, Kiefft outlawed virtually 
everything in sight. All trade, of any commodity whatsoever, was outlawed, 
except by special license issued by Kiefft. Any trader doing business with- 
out a license had his goods confiscated, and was subject to further punish- 
ment. To guard against possible trade, all sailors were prohibited from 
being on shore at night, under penalty of forfeit of wages and of instant 
dismissal on second offense. All sales of guns or ammunition to the Indians 
were prohibited on pain of death. All sorts of "immoralities" were pro- 
hibited. Heavy restrictions were placed on the sale of liquor; any tavern 
keeper selling liquor to tipsy customers was subject to a heavy fine and to 
confiscation of his stock. A tax was placed on tobacco. It is no wonder that 
De Vries, who had strongly opposed the tyranny of Van Twiller, had far 
more to resent now. 

At the very time that Kiefft was imposing his despotism on New Nether- 
land, however, overall company policy for the colony was changing drastically 
for the better. It was becoming increasingly evident to all that something 
needed to be done to obtain permanent settlers for this very thinly peopled 
territory. Characteristically, the patroons suggested a stronger dose of the 
medicine on which they were prospering: feudalism. The patroons, in their 


proposed "New Project," suggested that the Netherlands take the path by 
which England was insuring the profitability of Virginia's large plantations: 
furnishing them with white indentured servants — paupers, convicts, and 
vagabonds. Instead, the West India Company made the vital decision in the 
fall of 1638 to liquidate and abolish all of its monopolies in the New World, 
including fur, manufacturing, and the right to own land. Even foreigners 
were to have the same liberties as Dutchmen. The only monopoly retained 
by the company was that of transporting the migrating settlers to America. 
Furthermore, the new freedom to own land was made effective by granting 
every new farmer the right to a farm he could cultivate, although the com- 
pany did insist that the farmer pay it rent for a half-dozen years, as well 
as the more reasonable provision that the farmer repay it the capital it 
had borrowed. And in 1640 the company liberalized the patroon system 
further, in a new Charter of Privileges and Exemptions. The size of patroon 
grants was greatly reduced — two hundred acres being awarded to anyone 
bringing over five settlers — and freedom of commerce was strengthened. 

This liberalization led to an immediate and pronounced influx of settlers 
into New Netherland. In one year the number of farms on Manhattan 
Island more than quadrupled. De Vries arrived with organized parties 
of settlers who went to Staten Island. Jonas Bronck made a settlement 
on the Bronx River. Englishmen, taking advantage of the full rights for 
foreigners, also poured in to settle on the vast land available: some came 
from Virginia and raised tobacco, others fled from Massachusetts Bay. The 
only requirement was that they take an oath of allegiance to the Dutch 

But while relations between individual settlers of the two countries 
were harmonious and naturally so, the relations between the two govern- 
ments, each rapaciously claiming sovereignty, were equally naturally, 
quite troublesome. An individual settler of whatever nationality can clearly 
and evidently demarcate for himself a tract of land by transforming it by 
his labor, but there is no such clear-cut criterion for imposing govern- 
mental sovereignty. Therefore, while individuals of different nationalities 
can peacefully coexist within any given geographic area, governmental ter- 
ritorial conflicts are perpetual. 

Thus, Director Kiefft, alarmed at the growth of Connecticut, seized the 
English town of Greenwich and forced the citizens to acknowledge Dutch 
jurisdiction. Angered also by New Haven and Connecticut settlements 
on eastern Long Island, Kiefft laid claim to all of what now are Kings 
and Queens counties, in another convenient purchase from the Indians. 
When in 1639 a group of settlers from Lynn, Massachusetts, landed in Cow 
Bay, Queens, they tore down the arms of the Dutch States-General from a 
tree and carved on it a fool's head. But Kiefft drove the New England settlers 
away, and they went east to found the town of Southampton. 

Long Island was particularly important as a source of wampum, beads 
from sea shells which had long served the Indians as their monetary medium 


of exchange. Wampum was particularly important to the white man as 
the best commodity to trade with the Indians for furs. 

Until the advent of the Kiefft administration, relations with the Indians 
had been cordial. But now they began to deteriorate. For one thing, oft- 
times the cattle of the many new agricultural settlers strayed onto Indian 
property and ruined Indian corn fields. When the Indians very properly pro- 
tected their corn by killing the white man's invading cattle, the white 
settlers, instead of curbing their cows, exacted reprisals upon the Indians. 

Moreover, the Indians of the lower Hudson, Connecticut, and what is 
now New Jersey were all members of the Algonquin Confederacy. The 
Algonquins' traditional enemies were the powerful and aggressive Iroquois, 
of upstate New York. Now the new Kiefft ruling that no arms may be sold 
to any Indians on pain of death was vigorously enforced in the neighborhood 
of Manhattan, but not against the valuable fur-supplying Iroquois to the north. 
The Algonquins were naturally embittered to find the Dutch eagerly supply- 
ing their worst enemies with arms while they were rudely cut off. To meet 
the Algonquins' problems, Director Kiefft did not take the sensible course 
of repealing the prohibition against selling them arms. Instead, he had what 
seemed to him a brilliant idea: Fort Amsterdam was really a protection for 
the Algonquins as much as for the Dutch; therefore, they should also be taxed 
to pay for its upkeep. Therewith, Kiefft's despotism reached out to the 
Indians as well, except that they were not so helpless to resist as were his 
hapless Dutch subjects. 

For sheer gall, Kiefft's demand upon the Indians for taxes in corn, furs, 
and wampum was hard to surpass. The Tappan tribe of Algonquins was 
properly sarcastic, and denied that the fort was any protection to it. The 
Tappans had never asked the Dutch to build their fort, and they were there- 
fore not obliged to help maintain it. 

At this point of growing tension, some employees of the West India com- 
pany, retraveling to the Delaware River in 1641, landed on Staten Island 
and stole some pigs belonging to David De Vries. As often happened in the 
colonies, the hapless Indians were blamed a priori for the theft. In this 
case, Kiefft, without bothering to investigate, decided that the Raritan 
Algonquins were to blame. He promptly sent out an armed troop that mur- 
dered several Raritans and burned their crops. The Raritans, having no 
recourse in Dutch courts, had only one means of redress: violence. In reprisal, 
they destroyed De Vries* plantation and massacred his settlers. Kiefft, 
always ready to escalate a conflict, proclaimed a bounty of ten fathoms of 
wampum for anyone who brought in the head of a Raritan Indian. 

At this juncture, an Indian from Yonkers who as a little boy had seen his 
uncle murdered in Manhattan by a gang of white servants of Peter Minuit, 
now murdered a Dutch tradesman in revenge. When Kiefft demanded the 
murderer, the Indian sachem refused to surrender him, reasoning that the 
balances of justice were now even. 

Kiefft was now building up to an Indian war on two fronts, but the people 


were refusing to bear arms or to pay for a looming, dangerous, and costly 
conflict. To raise funds and support for a war, Kiefft in 1641 called together 
the first representative group of any kind in New Netherland: an assembly 
of heads of families, who chose a board of twelve men, headed by De Vries, 
to speak for them. 

Although De Vries had more personal reasons to be anti-Indian than the 
director, he advised caution: the surrender of the murderer must be insisted 
upon, but the colony was not ready for a war. Moreover, De Vries adopted the 
great English tradition of redress of grievances before supply: when a 
despotic king was finally forced to call an assembly in order to raise expenses 
for a foreign war, the assembly would drive a hard bargain and insist first 
on liberalization of the tyranny. This is what the Twelve Men did before 
consenting to war in 1642. They demanded that Kiefft restore the council to 
five members, of whom four would be chosen by popular vote. They also 
demanded popular representation in the courts, no taxes to be levied with- 
out their consent, and greater freedom of trade. One of their demands, 
however, was the reverse of liberal: that importation of English cattle be 
excluded — clearly a desire for further privilege by the patroons. Kiefft fi- 
nally responded in characteristic fashion, by dissolving the Twelve Men and 
proclaiming that no further public meetings might be held in New Amster- 
dam without his express permission. 

Although the Dutch had failed to obtain the murderer from the Westchester 
Indians, a year's truce had been arranged by Jonas Bronck. Then, in 1643 
an Indian was made drunk and robbed by some Dutch at the Hackensack 
settlement. In revenge, the Indian killed a Hackensack settler. The chiefs 
of the Indian's tribe hastily told De Vries, the patroon of Hackensack, 
that they would pay two hundred fathoms of wampum to the victim's 
widow, which they felt was reasonable compensation. De Vries advised 
acceptance of the offer, but Kiefft insisted on surrender of the murderer. 
The murderer, however, had fled up river to the Haverstraw Indians. Kiefft 
immediately demanded that the Haverstraws surrender him. 

At this point a new factor intervened; a force of aggressive Mohawks of 
the Iroquois confederacy, each armed with Dutch muskets, descended upon 
the Hudson River tribes to terrorize and exact tribute. Although the Dutch 
would not break their treaty with the Iroquois by fighting them, De Vries 
did agree to give shelter to the Algonquin refugees at his main patroonship 
of Vriesendael at Tappan, and other refugees took shelter at Pavonia and 
on Manhattan Island. 

Counsel was now divided among the Dutch. De Vries, backed by council- 
man Dr. La Montague and Rev. Everardus Bogardus, advised peaceful 
mediation in the Indian conflict. But Kiefft, over their passionate protests, 
saw only a Heaven-sent chance to pursue his grand design of liquidating 
the Indians. In this he was supported by Van Tenhoven, the secretary of the 
colony, and especially by Maryn Adriaensen, a member of the Twelve 
Men and a former freebooter in the West Indies. In an extraordinarily 


vicious sneak attack, Dutch soldiers, at midnight of February 25, 1643, 
rushed into the camps of sleeping refugees at Pavonia and Corlears Hook on 
Manhattan Island and slaughtered them all. In all, well over a hundred 
Indians were massacred, including the hacking to pieces of Indian babies. 
Led by Adriaensen, the soldiers exultantly marched back to Fort Amsterdam 
in the morning, bringing back many Indian heads. Director Kiefft rather 
aptly called it a truly Roman achievement. Taking their cue from this 
treacherous official massacre of peaceful and friendly Indians, some settlers 
at Flatlands fell suddenly on a group of completely friendly Marechkawieck 
Indians, murdered several, and stole a large amount of their corn. 

The Algonquins could give but one answer to this outrage — -all-out war on 
the Dutch. The entire Algonquin peoples, led by the Haverstraws, rose up 
against their tormentors. It was during this total conflict that poor Anne 
Hutchinson was killed by Indian raiders. The English settlements of West- 
chester were all wiped out. Even Vriesendael was attacked but, notably, while 
the destruction of Vriesendael was under way, an Indian spoke in praise of 
De Vries and the Indians departed after expressing regrets for their action. 
The Long Island settlements were also destroyed, as well as those on the west 
bank of the Hudson. The only Long Island settlement spared was Gravesend, a 
colony organized by Lady Deborah Moody, a Baptist refugee from Massachu- 
setts. Only a half-dozen farms on Manhattan Island remained intact. By 1644, 
almost all the Dutch settlers were forced to abandon their homes and fields to 
destruction and to retreat behind the wall of Fort Amsterdam (now Wall 
Street), at the southern tip of Manhattan Island, around which fort the village 
of New Amsterdam had grown. Fort Orange and Rensselaerswyck, in friendly 
Iroquois country around Albany, remained unmolested. One of Kiefft's con- 
tributions to the struggle was to be the first white man to offer a bounty for 
Indian scalps. 

The disastrous consequences of Willem Kiefft were now becoming fully evi- 
dent, A needless and terribly destructive war had been inflicted upon the 
Dutch as the sole result of Kiefft's tough, hard-line policy toward the Algon- 
quins. Popular indignation against Kiefft now rose insistently, and demands 
grew for his expulsion. De Vries, embarking for Holland, bitterly warned 
Kiefft that "the murders in which you have shed so much innocent blood will 
yet be avenged on your own head." Typically, Kiefft tried to disclaim all re- 
sponsibility by throwing all the blame on his adviser in slaughter, Maryn 
Adriaensen. Adriaensen, whose farm had just been destroyed, naturally grew 
somewhat bitter at this treachery, and with a few comrades rushed into 
Kiefft's room to try to shoot the director. The assassination attempt failed; 
the man who fired the shot was instantly killed and his head publicly dis- 

With the Dutch community facing disaster, the despotic Kiefft, his treasury 
empty, was again forced to consult the leading colonists in order to raise 
money to fight a war of his own creation. In late 1643 he chose a board of 
Eight Men for this purpose. No funds could be obtained from the West India 


Company because it was in the process of going bankrupt. And money raised 
by piratic attacks on Spanish shipping could only be highly irregular. Regular 
funds were also needed to maintain a company of soldiers, recently sent by 
the company and peremptorily quartered upon the town. Faced with this prob- 
lem, Kiefft turned to one of his favorite devices: the imposition of a crushing 
tax. Kiefft proclaimed an exise tax on the brewing of beer, on wines and 
spirits, and on beaver skins. The Eight Men strongly objected, arguing rather 
lamely that taxes could be levied only by the home company itself, and, more 
cogently, that it was the business of the company and not of the settlers to 
hire and maintain soldiers. Furthermore, they protested that the settlers were 
ruined and could not pay taxes. (The suggestion of the Eight Men to tax spec- 
ulators and traders was not, however, very constructive.) Kiefft replied in his 
usual brusque fashion, "In this country, I am my own master and may do as I 

The people of New Amsterdam now had to confront not only Indians on the 
warpath, but further tyranny and exactions at home. Naturally, their grum- 
bling opposition to Kiefft redoubled, and it was hardly allayed when Kiefft 
made an appointment with some of the Eight and then failed to keep it. The 
brewers refused to pay the tax. The matter was taken into court, but in 
essence Kiefft was the court and speedy judgment was rendered against the 
brewers, whose product was confiscated and given to the soldiers. Hostility to 
Kiefft now filled the colony and he was generally reviled as a villain, a liar, 
and a tyrant. 

Finally, the long-suffering colonists could bear Kiefft no longer. Speaking 
for the colonists, the Eight Men in October 1644 directly petitioned the 
States-General in the Netherlands to remove Kiefft forthwith. The Eight Men 
wrote eloquently of their plight under Kiefft: 

Our fields lie fallow and waste; our dwellings and other buildings are burned; 
not a handful can be either planted or sown ... we have no means to provide 
necessaries for wives or children. . . . The whole of these now lie in ashes 
through a foolish hankering after war. For all right-thinking men here know that 
these Indians have lived as lambs among us until a few years ago. . . . These 
hath the Director, by various uncalled-for proceedings, so embittered against the 
Netherlands nation, that we do not believe that anything will bring them and 
peace back. . . . 

This is what we have, in the sorrow of our hearts, to complain of; that one 
man . . . should dispose here of our lives and property according to his will and 
pleasure, in a manner so arbitrary that a king would not be suffered legally to 
do . . . We pray . . . that one of these two things may happen — either that a 
governor may be speedily sent with a beloved peace to us, or that [the com- 
pany] will . . . permit us to return with wives and children to our dear Father- 
land. For it is impossible ever to settle this country until a different system be 
introduced here, and a new governor be sent out. . . . 

The petitioners also asked for greater freedom and more representative in- 
stitutions to check the executive power. 


This cride coeur of the oppressed people of New Netherland was heeded by 
the West India Company and Kiefft was removed in May 1645. It was perhaps 
not coincidental that the Algonquins and the Dutch were able to conclude a 
peace treaty soon afterward, in August, under pressure, to be sure, of the 
pro-Dutch Mohawk tribe. The parties sensibly agreed that whenever a white 
man or an Indian should injure the other, the victim would apply for redress to 
the juridical agencies of the accused. An ironical part of this peace treaty was 
the Algonquin agreement to return the kidnapped granddaughter of Anne 
Hutchinson, who now liked Algonquin life and who was returned against her 
will. Even a peace treaty could not be carried out, it seems, without someone 
being coerced. 

Unfortunately, the company was delayed two years in sending the new gov- 
ernor, and Kiefft continued to oppress the citizenry in the meanwhile. Even 
the coming of peace did not completely lift the burdens of the people. The 
people had happily rejoiced when they heard the glad tidings of Kiefft's 
ouster. Kiefft immediately threatened all of his critics with fines and im- 
prisonment for their "sedition." He continued to prohibit any appeals of his 
arbitrary decisions to Holland. The director was thereupon denounced by the 
influential Rev. Mr. Bogardus, in his sermons: "What are the great men of 
this country but vessels of wrath and fountains of woe and trouble? They 
think of nothing but to plunder the property of others, to dismiss, to banish, to 
transport to Holland!" To counter this courageous attack, Kiefft decided to 
use the minions of the state to drown out Bogardus' sermons — by soldiers' 
drum rolls, and even by roar of the fort's cannon. But Bogardus would not be 
silenced. Kiefft then turned to the method of violence to stop his critic — to the 
legal proceedings of his own state. Kiefft's charges against Bogardus in 
Kiefft's court included "scattering abuse," drinking alcohol, and defending 
criminals (such as Adriaensen in his attempt to assassinate the director). 
When these charges were served on Bogardus, he defiantly refused to appear, 
challenging Kiefft's legal right to issue the summons; with the people solidly 
on the minister's side, Kiefft was forced to yield. 

Finally, at long last, Kiefft's replacement, Peter Stuyvesant, arrived in May 
1647. So great was the jubilation of the people in getting rid of this incubus, 
that almost all of the fort's powder was used up in the military salute celebra- 
ting the arrival of the new director. When Kiefft handed over the office, the 
conventional vote of thanks to the old director was proposed, but two of the 
leading Eight Men, Cornells Melyn, the patroon of Staten Island, and the 
German Joachim Kuyter, refused to agree, saying that they certainly had no 
reason to thank Kiefft. Moreover, they presented a petition for a judicial in- 
quiry into Kiefft's behavior in office. But apart from being no liberal himself, 
Stuyvesant saw immediately the grave threat that a precedent for inquiry 
into a director's conduct would hold for any of his own despotic actions. The 
late nineteenth-century historian John Fiske aptly compared Stuyvesant's 
position to that of Emperor Joseph II of Austria-Hungary during the Ameri- 
can Revolution over a century later: "Stuyvesant felt as in later days the 


Emperor Joseph II felt when he warned his sister Marie Antoinette that the 
French government was burning its fingers in helping the American rebels. I, 
too, like your Americans well enough, said he, but I do not forget that my 
trade is that of king — c'est mon metier d'etre roil So it was Stuyvesant's trade 
to be a colonial governor. . . ."* 

Stuyvesant loftily declared that government officials should never 
have to disclose government secrets on the demand of two mere private 
citizens. And furthermore, to petition against one's rulers is ipso facto 
treason, no matter how great the provocation. Under this pressure, the 
petition of Melyn and Kuyter was rejected in the council, even though the 
company, in a mild gesture of liberality, had agreed to vest the government 
of New Netherland in a three-man supreme council (instead of Kiefft's 
one-man rule): a director general, a vice director, and the Scbout-Fiscal. 
All, however, were company appointees. 

The Dutch soon found that their jubilation at the change of directors 
should have been tempered. From his speech upon arrival, "I shall govern 
you as a father his children" Stuyvesant indicated no disposition to brook 
any limits to his rule. Even on the ship coming over, he had angrily pushed 
the new Scbout-Fiscal out of the room because the latter had not been sum- 
moned. When Stuyvesant assumed command, he sat with his hat on 
while others waited bareheaded before he deigned to notice them, 
a breach of etiquette; he was, as one Dutch observer exclaimed, "quite 
like the Czar of Muscovy." Furthermore, Stuyvesant was not willing to 
let the Melyn-Kuyter matter rest with the rejection of their petition. 
He now summoned them to trial; and Kiefft eagerly accused these two 
"malignants" of being the real authors of the "libelous" Eight Men petition. 
Kiefft suggested that the two defendants be forced to produce all their cor- 
respondence with the company, and to show cause why they should not be 
summarily banished as "pestilent and seditious persons." Stuyvesant agreed, 
but Melyn and Kuyter showed so much damning evidence against Kiefft that 
these charges were quickly dropped. But if one charge fell through, another 
must immediately be found. Melyn and Kuyter were now indicted on the 
trumped-up charge of treachery with the Indians, and of attempting to stir 
up rebellion. Without bothering about evidence this time, Stuyvesant rushed 
through the prearranged verdict of guilty. 

Stuyvesant was eager to sentence Melyn, as the leader of the two, 
to death, and he seriously pondered the death sentence for Kuyter also. 
For Kuyter had also committed two grave crimes: he had dared to criticize 
Kiefft, and he had shaken his finger at the ex-director. And Stuyvesant 
remembered the philosophizing of the Dutch jurist Josse de Damhouder: 
he who so much as frowns at a magistrate is guilty of insulting him. 
He also recalled the admonition of Bernardinus de Muscatellus: "He 

*)ohnFiske, The Dutch and Quaker Colonies in America (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1899), 


who slanders God, the magistrate, or his parents, must be stoned to death." 
Stuyvesant was persuaded by his more cautious advisers, however, not 
to execute Melyn and Kuyter; instead, both were heavily fined and ban- 
ished. Banishment, however, raised the danger that they would spill 
their tales of woe to the authorities in Holland. So Stuyvesant warned 
Melyn: "If I thought there were any danger of your trying an appeal, 
I would hang you this minute from the tallest tree on the island." This 
was in line with Stuyvesant's general view of the right to appeal: "If 
any man tries to appeal from me to the States-General, I will make him 
a foot shorter, pack the pieces off to Holland and let him appeal in that 

The ironic climax of the Kiefft saga occurred when Kiefft finally left 
for Holland in August 1647 with a large fortune of 400,000 guilders, 
largely amassed from his term in office, and with Melyn and Kuyter in tow 
as his prisoners. The ship was wrecked and Kiefft drowned, in seeming 
confirmation of De Vries' prophecy. Before his death, he purportedly 
confessed his wrongdoing to Melyn and Kuyter, who were rescued and 
who were able to gain their freedom in Holland. 



The Dutch and New Sweden 

The Kiefft administration had witnessed another development annoy- 
ing to the Dutch West India Company and to the Dutch government: 
the settlement by Sweden of arbitarily proclaimed Dutch territory on the 
Delaware. The Delaware, and indeed America as a whole, presented a 
vast virgin territory for virtually any settlers of any nationality who 
wished to emigrate. But government sovereignty is always jealous of 
its self-trumpeted monopoly. In 1633 the New Sweden Company was 
formed, of equal parts of Dutch and Swedish capital, as a successor company 
to one of William Usselincx's projects. The idea was the creation of Peter 
Minuit, the disappointed, ousted governor of New Amsterdam, and of 
Samuel Blommaert, a director of the Dutch West India Company at 
odds with the controlling interests of that company. Blommaert, who 
became an agent of the Swedish Crown, was by far the largest Dutch in- 
vestor. Of the Swedish investors, three were of the family of Oxenstierna, 
the prime minister of Sweden. 

In the spring of 1638, the first small party of Swedish settlers, led by 
Minuit, landed on the west bank of the Delaware and built Fort Christina 
(now Wilmington). Land was purchased from the local Indians. The 
Swedes lived in uneasy coexistence with their neighbors. The Dutch quickly 
protested the infringement of their monopoly, and Virginia carped at the 
competition of Swedish fur trade with the Indians. But the Dutch were 
constrained from war against New Sweden by the fact that the two coun- 
tries were allies in the Thirty Years* War, then raging in Europe. 
Dutch colonists planted a settlement twenty miles north of Fort Chris- 
tina, but, characteristically, the Dutch area was thinly populated; those 


who did settle there were soon outnumbered by the Swedes. By 1640 
the Swedish colony had a Lutheran minister, Rev. Reorus Torkillus. 

The Dutch were less tender, however, with the English settlers. 
In 1640 the leaders of New Haven Colony, including Governor Theophilus 
Eaton, formed the Delaware Company in an attempt to secure prosper- 
ity for the colony by promoting settlements on the Delaware. The effort 
was supported financially by the General Court of New Haven Colony. 
The first New Haven settlement on the Delaware took place in the sum- 
mer of 1641, in southwestern New Jersey. The small group of settlers 
began to grow tobacco and to trade with the Indians. Promptly, the Dutch 
troops at Fort Nassau, aided by a Swedish force, invaded the New Haven 
land, burned the houses of the settlers, and shipped the prisoners to Man- 

Meanwhile, Sweden asserted its rampant nationalism by moving 
to put the New Sweden Company under Swedish governmental control. 
In 1641 the Swedes bought out the Dutch investors in the company and the 
following year the Swedish Crown moved in to exert full control over 
the company's affairs. By 1642 New Sweden was under the direct rule 
of the Swedish Council of State, which appointed as the new governor 
the veteran soldier of fortune, Johan Printz. 

Printz immediately began a campaign of harassment of the small 
New Haven settlement and its leader, George Lamberton, whom he 
forbade to trade without a license. Under this treatment, the New Haven 
settlement soon collapsed. Flushed with the victory, Printz established 
a series of forts, including Fort Elfsborg, near Salem Creek, and Fort New 
Krisholm at the mouth of the Schuykill River on the west bank of the 

By 1644 New Sweden reached its peak of population, less than three 
hundred. This contrasted to a population in all of New Netherland of 
2,000. But from that point on, this already small colony entered into a 
decline. For one thing, Sweden was interested in tobacco, and not in 
the fur available in the Delaware Valley. 

To return to New Netherland proper, we have seen that Peter Stuy- 
vesant was every bit as rigorous a tyrant as his predecessor, albeit more 
sophisticated and systematic in his depredations. As soon as he took office 
he persecuted the critics of Kiefft, and threatened to hang anyone appeal- 
ing his decisions to Holland. He also decreed that no liquor be sold to any 
Indians, and that none at all be sold on Sunday mornings or after nine 
o'clock curfew. Taxes were raised sharply, a new excise was laid on wines 
and spirits, and export taxes on furs increased to thirty percent. When 
these laws were not observed, Stuyvesant added corporal punishment to 
the usual fines. All forms of smuggling and illegal trading were, of course, 
forbidden on pain of heavy penalties. 

Stuyvesant, therefore, was rapidly acquiring the reputation in the 
colony of being little different from the hated Kiefft. But Stuyvesant 


elaborated a sophisticated refinement. After enmeshing the economy 
in a network of restrictions and prohibitions, Stuyvesant in return for 
heavy fees sold exemptions from these regulations. In short, Stuyvesant 
saw that the key to wealth for a government ruler is to create the op- 
portunity for monopoly privilege (for example, by outlawing and regu- 
lating productive activities) and then to sell these privileges for what 
the traffic can bear. Stuyvesant's sales yielded him a fortune during his 
term in office, in currency and in land. 

To levy increased taxes, Stuyvesant, too, was forced to call together 
representatives of wealthy families of the colony — in this case a group 
of Nine Men. The Nine Men were chosen as advisers and judges by eigh- 
teen men, who in turn had been elected by Dutch householders of Man- 
hattan, Flatlands, and Breukelen (now northwestern Brooklyn), in Sep- 
tember 1647. Stuyvesant realized that, rather than rule totally alone, it 
would be far shrewder to share his monopoly gains with the Nine Men, 
thus cementing them to his rule and warding off the rise of the sort of 
serious opposition that had ousted Kiefft. And so Stuyvesant pleased the 
Nine Men by restricting the crucial fur trade of the Hudson Valley to 
the old residents, the new ones needing considerable property to be 
admitted. This was later expanded, however, to a fee requirement 
for all residents, with the fee being a purchase of the approval of Governor 
Stuyvesant. After this expansion, there was no incentive for the Nine Men 
to continue to back the director. All these various taxes and regulations, 
however, were generally evaded by shippers and traders — the reaction 
of traders to harassment and depredation from time immemorial. These 
successful evasions benefited the traders and the mass of consumers 

The honeymoon with the Nine Men did not last long. For one thing, 
Stuyvesant had refused to permit New England ships in New Netherland 
ports, even though New England permitted entry of the ships from New 
Netherland. In 1648, New England retaliated against all Dutch trade with 
the Indians, causing considerable economic distress in the Dutch colony. 
Another important factor in this distress was the high customs in New 
Amsterdam and the heavy penalties for evasion imposed there. Spurred 
by the withering of commerce subsequent to the New England regula- 
tion, the Nine Men, led by their president, Adrien Van der Donck, patroon 
of Yonkers, appealed the Stuyvesant ruling to Holland. Stuyvesant seized 
the papers of the Nine Men, arrested Van der Donck, and expelled him from 
their membership. 

At this point, none other than Cornells Melyn arrived from Holland, 
brandishing a safe-conduct from the States-General as well as a con- 
demnation of Stuyvesant's harsh treatment of Melyn and Kuyter. Chas- 
tened temporarily, Stuyvesant released Van der Donck, and allowed the 
Nine Men to send their petition to the States-General. The petition, 
sent in the fall of 1649, asked the States-General to take over the gov- 


ernment of New Netherland from the West India Company, in order to 
allow local self-government in New Amsterdam and to encourage rather 
than restrict trade. The petition also included a severe indictment of the 
government of Peter Stuyvesant and of the Dutch West India Company. As 
the petition charged: "Nobody is unmolested or secured in his property longer 
than the Director pleases, who is generally inclined to confiscating." The 
petition wisely noted, "A covetous chief makes poor subjects." 

Oddly enough, Stuyvesant's main support at this time came from a 
group of English settlers on Long Island, headed by George Baxter of Grave- 
send, who was Stuyvesant's appointed English secretary of state. The 
magistrates of the English settlements of Gravesend and Hempstead 
fawningly expressed the fervent hope for no change of government, 
praised the existing strong government, and warned that any dem- 
ocratic procedure in New Netherland would surely lead to anarchy and 
ruin. Three years after the petition, the company's sole concession was to 
order Stuyvesant to grant a municipal government to New Amsterdam. 
However, this was only a pro forma victory for the idea of limiting 
government; Stuyvesant insisted on retaining the power to appoint all 
of the municipal officials, and to decree the municipal ordinances. 

In foreign affairs Stuyvesant was cautious and conciliatory regarding 
the power of the English colonies, realizing as he did that Connecticut's 
and New Haven's activities on the Connecticut River, Westchester, 
and Long Island constituted a potential threat to Dutch rule. In 1650, 
Stuyvesant negotiated a boundary settlement with the New England 
Confederation, partitioning Long Island at Oyster Bay. This partition 
continued to be upheld even after the outbreak of the first Anglo-Dutch 
War (1652-54). Indeed, the only loss suffered by New Netherland in that 
war was Connecticut's seizure of Fort Good Hope, which had been a hope- 
less enclave in hostile territory for a long while. The Dutch West Indies 
Company, however, suffered very seriously from the Anglo-Dutch War. 
For England was allied with newly independent (1640) Portugal, which 
proceeded to reconquer Angola and northern Brazil, the company's most 
lucrative possessions (England was rewarded with rights in the slave 
trade by the Portuguese). The company's financial problems were com- 
pounded by lack of support from the government and the merchants, 
who preferred private trade to the expenses of monopolies and colonial 

Stuyvesant's own problems during the war were chiefly internal rather 
than external. On the outbreak of the war, the English settlers were alienated 
by the company's prohibition of any but Dutchmen in public office. Cap- 
tain John Underhill organized a one-man rebellion at Hempstead and Flush- 
ing, claiming allegiance to England and denouncing Stuyvesant's tyranny: 
his seizure of private land, imposition of heavy taxes, religious persecu- 
tion, banning of any election procedures, and imprisonment of men without 
trial. Underhill was forced to flee to Rhode Island. 


More significant was the disaffection of such former lieutenants of 
Stuyvesant as George Baxter. Baxter's opposition forced the reluctant 
director to agree to a "landtag/* or popular convention, to meet to discuss 
public affairs. The landtag met in December 1653 with four Dutch and four 
English towns represented by nineteen delegates. (The Dutch towns: 
New Amsterdam, Breukelen, Flatlands, and Flatbush; the English: 
Flushing, Gravesend, Hempstead, and Middleburg.) Despite the par- 
tition treaty of 1650, most of the new settlers of western Long Island 
were English, and many of these settlements had acquired some rights 
to local self-government from the charter of 1640. Now they were in the 
forefront of the complaints of arbitrary government. Ostensibly called 
to concentrate on the English war, the landtag's meeting was turned by 
Baxter — attracted out of office to the liberal cause — to the most pressing 
problem, Stuyvesant's own tyranny. Baxter drew up, and the landtag 
unanimously approved, a Remonstrance and Petition attacking all the 
despotic evils of the existing regime: especially arbitrary government by 
the director and his council, appointment of officials and magistrates 
without consent of the people, and granting of large tracts of land to 
favorites of the director. They also demanded a permanent landtag with 
power to raise taxes and help select officials, and they asserted that 
"the law of nature" authorized all men to associate in defense of their 
liberty and property. Here were the very "rights of man" which Peter 
Stuyvesant had always despised. 

Stuyvesant, like Kiefft, had thought his subjects would come together 
to meet an "external threat"; he found them instead seizing the oppor- 
tunity to challenge the threat to their life, liberty, and property that they 
were suffering chronically at home. Stuyvesant, of course, brusquely 
rejected the Remonstrance and promptly declared the assembly illegal 
and ordered it dissolved. Stuyvesant poured his scorn on the "law of na- 
ture"; only appointed magistrates, not private individuals, had the right 
to hold political meetings: "We derive our authority from God and the 
company, not from a few ignorant subjects, and we alone can call the 
inhabitants together." Moreover, charged the director, the whole pro- 
ceedings "smelt of rebellion." 

Stuyvesant was able to continue the arbitrary rule that was crippling 
and greatly slowing down the development of the colony. Indeed, the com- 
pany not only approved the director s treatment of the landtag, but gently 
chided him for engaging in any sort of dialogue with "the rabble." Encour- 
aged, Stuyvesant expelled Baxter and James Hubbard of Gravesend from 
their civil offices. When the latter raised the English flag at Gravesend 
and both proclaimed their allegiance to Cromwell, Stuyvesant sent a 
troop to imprison Hubbard and Baxter. The director's victory over his 
opposition was complete. 

As we have noted, Stuyvesant's foreign policy, in welcome contrast 
to Kiefft's, was cautious and conciliatory. When Stuyvesant assumed 


office, he found Governor Printz of New Sweden constructing many 
forts on the Delaware River. To counter this expansionist policy, Stuy- 
vesant built Fort Beversrede (now Philadelphia) in the spring of 1648, 
across the Schuylkill River from the new Swedish Fort New Krisholm. 
But the rambunctious Swedes twice burned Fort Beversrede during 
that year, and each time the Dutch simply rebuilt, without retaliation. 
Then, in 1651 the Dutch built Fort Casimir (New Castle) below Fort 
Christina; strategically located, it commanded the river approaches to 
most of New Sweden. 

During the early 1650s, friction was building up in Europe between 
Sweden and the United Provinces. The Thirty Years' War had ended in 
1648, and now the two countries would soon erupt into open conflict 
over Sweden's interventions in Denmark. In this delicate situation, 
the new governor of New Sweden committed the enormous blunder 
of launching a surprise attack on Fort Casimir, and thus helped end New 
Sweden forevermore. Surely this governor, Johan Rising, an associate of 
the powerful Oxenstierna family, must have realized that his tiny colony 
of less than a few hundred souls could hardly have held its own in a war 
with New Netherland. And yet, inexplicably, Rising suddenly attacked 
and seized Fort Casimir in 1654, renaming it Fort Trefaldighet. This 
provocation was the last straw for the hitherto patient Dutch, who de- 
cided to wipe out New Sweden for good. 

The following year the Dutch sent seven ships, headed by Stuyvesant, 
and quickly forced the surrender of the two Swedish forts. The Swedish 
governor was returned to Sweden. Most of the Swedish settlers elected 
to remain, but were forced to take a loyalty oath to Holland. New Sweden 
had ended. It was now a part of the enlarged New Netherland. 

The Delaware Bay area was now governed by the Dutch, who provided 
the officialdom and the fur traders, but the bulk of the settlers — amounting 
to about six hundred by 1659 — were Swedes and Finns, who provided the 
farmers and village governments. (Finland was, in those years, under 
Swedish rule, and hence many of the "Swedish" immigrants were 
Finns.) In 1656 there occurred the fateful separation of the west bank of 
the Delaware River — from Fort Christina (Wilmington) southward — 
from the rest of the Delaware River settlements. In short, a separate 
life began for the future colony of "Delaware." As a direct result of the 
highly expensive expedition to conquer New Sweden, the heavily in- 
debted Dutch West India Company in 1656 transferred its sovereignty 
over part of this area to its creditor, the city of Amsterdam. Three years 
later, the company transferred the entire west bank, from Fort Christina 
southward, to Amsterdam. 

The city of Amsterdam sent out more settlers to its new land; renamed 
Fort Christina, Altena; and named its new colony New Amstel, which 


was headed by one Alrichs. In 1659 AJrichs was succeeded by Alexander 
d'Hinoyossa, who became the sole governor of what was later to be Del- 

The Swedish and Finnish settlers soon found that their lot under Am- 
sterdam rule was much worse than under New Netherland, and the 
Dutch West India Company. Their freedom of trade was far more re- 
stricted, and the city of Amsterdam's officials arrogated to themselves 
a tight monopoly of all trade. Stuyvesant was also bitter at this govern- 
mental rival in his former domain. 



New Netherland Persecutes 
the Quakers 

As Swedish and Finnish Lutherans were incorporated into the domain 
of New Netherland, the problem of theocracy and religious persecution 
became acute. We have indicated that New Netherland was largely 
governed by that wing of Dutch opinion that advocated Calvinist theoc- 
racy, as over against the libertarian approach of their Republican rivals. 
The Dutch West India Company in general and Peter Stuyvesant in par- 
ticular hated the idea of religious toleration and desired theocracy und^r 
the Dutch Reformed Church, as directed by the synod, or classis, of Am- 
sterdam. In 1654 Stuyvesant forbade any Lutheran minister from hold- 
ing services, and the company decreed that only Dutch Reformed services 
were permissible in the colony. In 1656 all other religious meetings 
were prohibited under heavy fine and no baptism was permitted except 
that of the Dutch Reformed Church. Indeed, Stuyvesant went so far as to 
imprison several persons for attending private Lutheran meetings. But for 
this he was censured by the States-General. And in 1657 even a commis- 
sion from Amsterdam to serve as a Lutheran pastor did not save the newly 
arrived Rev. Ernestus Goetwater from being shipped back to Holland by 
the authorities. Leading the campaign of persecution was the influ- 
ential Dutch Calvinist minister, the Reverend Mr. Megapolensis. 

It was at this time that the great wave of Quaker persecutions began 
in New England and Peter Stuyvesant was not to be caught lagging. 
New Netherland, indeed, was distinguished, even among the colonies, 
for its extensive use of torture — particularly the rack — to extract confes- 
sions and to whip and mutilate runaway servants and slaves. Now, in 1656, 
Stuyvesant decreed that Quakers could be tied to a cart's tail and assigned 
hard labor for two years. 


The first Quakers in New Netherland arrived from England in 1657. 
Two women, Mary Weatherhead and Dorothy Waugh, were thrown into 
a dungeon as soon as they began to preach and after a week were sent, 
tied up, to Rhode Island — that "sewer of heretics." Robert Hodgson, 
another English Quaker, found many receptive hearts in Long Island and 
prepared to preach at Hempstead. There he was seized by a local mag- 
istrate, Richard Gildersleeve, and imprisoned in the latter's house. 
But Hodgson was able to preach even under house arrest. Governor Stuy- 
vesant now sent an armed guard to Hempstead, bound Hodgson closely, 
and arrested two women for the crime of giving space to the Quaker. 
The three were taken by cart, Hodgson dragged at the tail, to New Am- 
sterdam. Prevented from speaking in his own defense, Robert Hodgson, 
for the crime of being a Quaker, was fined 600 guilders and sentenced 
to two years at hard labor. But Hodgson courageously refused to cooperate 
in this unjust sentence; he refused to work or pay. Whereupon he was 
chained to a wheelbarrow and beaten with a tarred rope. This treatment 
continued for three days, and Hodgson still refused to work or pay. For 
speaking out of turn, the Quaker was hung up and whipped at Stuyvesant's 
order. The director then told him that he would be beaten every day until 
he worked and paid the fine. Finally Hodgson yielded and agreed to work 
in prison. However, pressures on the director led him to waive the fine and 
eventually Hodgson was permitted to leave the colony for Rhode Island. 

A fine of fifty pounds was now proclaimed for anyone found sheltering 
a Quaker for so much as one night, and the law against meetings was 
revived. The first enforcement was against Harry Townsend of Flushing 
Town on Long Island. He was thrown into prison when he refused to pay 
a heavy fine for attending a Quaker meeting. This spurred a complaint 
by the English settlers of Flushing, They protested that they were obliged 
to do good to all Christians, including Quakers, and that they would there- 
fore continue to shelter them as "God shall persuade our conscience." 

The receptivity of Flushing and other western Long Island towns to re- 
ligious freedom, and even to the Quaker creed itself, deserves explanation. 
These towns were settled by New Englanders, but the settlers were not 
the Puritans who peopled the Connecticut and New Haven towns of east- 
ern Long Island. The fountainhead of this different migration was Lady 
Deborah Moody. Born in England and persecuted by the Church of England, 
this widow had been invited by her friends the Winthrops to move to 
Massachusetts to gain her religious freedom. Settling at Lynn, Mas- 
sachusetts, in 1640, but belonging to the Salem church, Lady Moody and a 
few followers were harassed by Massachusetts for opposing infant 
baptism and adopting the Baptist creed. Hence Lady Moody, like other 
heretics, left Massachusetts in 1643. She bought an estate at Gravesend, 
Long Island, where she was followed by many other families from Lynn. 
We have seen that Gravesend, alone, survived the Indian war against 
Willem Kiefft. In the next decade other Lynn Baptists as well as Seekers 


organized more settlements on west Long Island: Flushing, Jamaica, 
Hempstead, and Oyster Bay. By 1653 Peter Stuyvesant was complaining 
that the Long Island towns were selecting local magistrates without 
regard to their Calvinism, and that Gravesend in particular was electing 
Baptists and freethinkers. 

The persecution of the Quakers now worked, as in New England, to 
multiply greatly the number of Quaker converts. Lady Moody and many of 
her followers from Lynn became Quakers at this time. 

To return to the Flushing protest, this was a remonstrance drawn up in 
a public meeting and signed by thirty-one men, headed by the town clerk, 
Edward Hart, and the sheriff, Tobias Feake. The remonstrance pointed not 
only to Christian conscience but also to the fact that their town charter 
"grants liberty of conscience without modification" and that they in- 
tended to stand by these rights. Many of the signers were originally from 
Lynn; others were English Pilgrims who had lived in Leyden, Holland. 

For this heroic act of defiance, Stuyvesant dismissed Feake and Hart 
from their official positions, harshly imprisoned the latter and heavily 
fined the former, and deprived Flushing of the right to hold town meet- 
ings. But this tyranny was in vain, as the illegal sheltering of Quakers and 
the conversion to their creed continued and intensified. Also in vain were 
the jailings of Quakers, of whom there were at one time nine imprisoned in 
New Amsterdam. The Dutch Calvinist ministers Megapolensis and 
Drosius despairingly reported in 1658: "The raving Quakers . . . continued 
to disturb the people of this province. Although our government has issued 
orders against these fanatics, nevertheless they do not fail to pour forth 
their venom. There is but one place in New England where they are tol- 
erated and that is Rhode Island, which is the sewer of New England." 

The persecution of the Quakers in New Netherland was finally ended 
by the case of John Bowne. Bowne, a Quaker convert in Flushing, had 
been fined twenty-five pounds for holding a meeting, and threatened 
with banishment for nonpayment. After three months in prison, Bowne 
was deported to Amsterdam, the council deciding on banishment "for 
the welfare of the community and to crush as far as it is possible that abom- 
inable sect who treat with contempt both the political magistrates and the 
ministers of God's holy Word and endeavor to undermine the police and re- 
ligion." But Bowne put his case before the Dutch West India Company in 
Amsterdam. Shocked at the excesses, the company directed Stuyvesant 
that "the consciences of men ought to remain free and unshackled. 
Let everyone remain free so long as he is modest, moderate, and his 
political conduct irreproachable." Bowne returned to Flushing a free man 
in 1663, and the Quakers were not persecuted again. As in New England, 
the Quakers had by the early 1660s triumphed over persecution. 



The Fall and Breakup 
of New Netherland 

New Amsterdam functioned as the major center of an illegal but free 
trade for the English colonies in America, for the purchase of European 
manufactures and for the sale of enumerated commodities, especially 
tobacco. Following the Restoration of Charles II, and the elaboration 
of the Navigation Act structure, England began to find New Netherland 
to be a major irritant, a major loophole in its attempt to mold and restrict 
colonial trade. 

The English Council of Trade, established in the autumn of 1660, com- 
plained regularly to the government that New Netherland was the center 
of free trade in America in violation of the acts of trade. Furthermore, 
English ire was drawn toward New Netherland because the latter 
vigorously competed with the English colonies for settlement by English- 
men. The colonial concern of the English government was reflected in 
its continuation of the Protectorate project for settlement and devel- 
opment of the island of Jamaica. The colonial government there would 
be completely dominated by the English government and was to be 
the standard form imposed on the colonies. Since an elected assembly 
such as Virginia's would be attractive to settlers, this form of government 
was pressed on Jamaica. And the fear that Dutch toleration would attract 
English settlers to Long Island instead of to Jamaica caused the English 
government to exempt the English colonies from the principal reli- 
gious act of the Restoration — the Act of Uniformity of May 1662. In Feb- 
ruary 1662 the Dutch West India Company had invited all those "of tender 
conscience in England or elsewhere oppressed" to settle on Long Island, 
where the major English settlements in New Netherland were located. 


Since this threatened to attract Dissenters from England, where repres- 
sion of the Puritans was increasing, and especially Dissenters from New 
England, the 1662 Act of Uniformity did not apply to the colonies, which 
had been included in the 1559 Act. Thus, Dutch colonial competition 
provided the New England colonies with religious benefits as well as 
economic and political ones. 

The Dutch West India Company, furthermore, was a point of special an- 
imosity to the English imperialists, as it was a major competitor of the 
principal instrument of English speculation and expansion, the Company 
of Royal Adventurers into Africa, which had raided the Dutch slave ports in 
West Africa. When the Spanish government sold the slave-trade contract, 
or Asiento de negros, to a Genoese company, which subcontracted the 
Asiento to the Dutch West India Company and the Company of Royal Ad- 
venturers into Africa, the English company was granted a new charter 
(January 1663) and the monopoly of trade in slaves from West Africa to the 
English colonies, as well as the exclusive right to occupy ports in West 

In 1650 New Netherland and the New England Confederation had come 
to an agreement by which the English towns of eastern Long Island came 
under Connecticut or New Haven government, and the western quarter 
of the island remained Dutch. Connecticut, emboldened by its new royal 
charter, now also pressed its presumptuous claims to Dutch territory, 
specifically to Westchester County and to the towns of western Long 
Island, where Englishmen had continued to settle. Peter Stuyvesant re- 
alized that in any conflict, New Netherland would be hopelessly beaten 
by the English colonies alone. Its population of 5,000 contrasted with one 
of 8,000 in Connecticut, over 20,000 in Massachusetts, and 27,000 in Vir- 
ginia. As early as 1655, Stuyvesant had displayed his caution in relations 
with the English when the New Englander, Thomas Pell, purchased 
and settled the Westchester land of Pelham Manor, formerly Anne's 
Hoeck, where Anne Hutchinson had been murdered. Stuyvesant ordered 
Pell to leave, bag and baggage, but did nothing when Pell failed to comply. 
And now, in late 1663, the English towns of Long Island rebelled and pro- 
claimed King Charles as their sovereign. They formed themselves into a 
league (consisting of Hempstead, Gravesend, Flushing, Oyster Bay, 
Middleburg, and Jamaica) and chose the veteran adventurer John Scott 
of Hempstead as their president The rebels thereupon called upon En- 
gland for action to crush the colony of New Netherland. Stuyvesant again 
pursued the course of prudence, and agreed to Connecticut demands to 
give up Westchester and the Long Island towns. When interethnic riots 
ensued on Long Island, however, Stuyvesant sent an armed force to pro- 
tect the Dutch Long Island towns of Breukelen and Flatbush. 

Amid this growing crisis, a landtag met in New Amsterdam in April 
1664, but could only bow reluctantly to force majeure and agree to yield 
to Connecticut's terms. But in the meanwhile, a special committee of the 


Privy Council found a solution (in January 1664) to the problem of the 
English settlers in New Netherland and the threat of free trade to England 
that New Netherlands existence posed: it would end New Netherlands 
existence by conquest Consequently, in February a grant and on March 12 
a patent were issued to the Duke of York, giving him the territories along 
the Hudson and Delaware rivers where the Dutch had settled, plus a gov- 
ernmental appropriation of money to cover the expenses of seizing them as 
well as the Dutch ports of West Africa. The seizure was to be accomplished 
by the English navy, of which the Duke of York was commander. Of the 
three-man special committee that had submitted this recommendation to 
the Privy Council, it should be noted that all were officials of the Admiralty 
under the Duke of York, and two of them, Lord Berkeley and Sir George 
Carteret, were promptly rewarded (June 1664) by the grateful Duke with a 
subgrant of the territory between the Hudson and the Delaware rivers. 

In April 1664 the Duke of York appointed Colonel Richard Nicolls to 
head a commission of four to direct the conquest of New Netherland and to 
establish English government there. The commissioners, as we have seen, 
were instructed to arrange for the aid of New England in the conquest of 
New Netherland, to gain the enforcement of the Navigation Acts, and to 
settle the disputes in New England. Colonel Nicolls promptly launched an 
armed expedition to seize New Netherland. 

To meet the English force of 1,000 men that arrived at the end of August, 
Stuyvesant had only 150 soldiers and 250 citizens capable of bearing arms. 
Not only were the Dutch outnumbered, but disaffection had been strong for 
years and the burgomasters were strongly inclined to submission. This in- 
clination was greatly intensified by Nicolls' generous terms to the Dutch, 
offering liberty of conscience, the retention of property rights, and freedom 
of trade and immigration. Furthermore, the Dutch citizens were promised 
freedom from conscription and guaranteed against any billeting of soldiers 
in their homes. 

It was not lost on the realistic Dutch people that they would be enjoying 
far more liberty under English rule than they ever had under the despotic 
company government. The burgomasters and even the magistrates now 
clamored for submission. In a tantrum at surrendering his power, Stuyve- 
sant tore the English message to bits, but the people demanded to hear it 
and Nicholas Bayard, one of the leaders of the Dutch community, pieced it 
together and read it to the crowd, which now called exuberantly for submis- 
sion. The people were intelligent enough to regard their lives and liberties 
more highly than they did a remote and artificial patriotism. As the histo- 
rian John Fiske pointed out: "There were many in the town who did not re- 
gard a surrender to England as the worst of misfortunes. They were weary of 
[Stuyvesant's] arbitrary ways . . . and in this mood they lent a willing ear to 
the offer of English liberties. Was it not better to surrender on favorable 
terms than to lose their lives in behalf of — what? Their homes and families? 
No indeed, but in behalf of a remote government which had done little or 


nothing for them! If they were lost to Holland, it was Holland's loss, not 

Yet, Stuyvesant, a hard-liner to the last, desperately tried to rouse the 
rapidly defecting Dutch to resistance to the death. Even his closest sup- 
porters turned against him. His councillor, Micasius de Sille, warned that 
"resistance is not soldiership, it is sheer madness." The rigorous Calvinist 
minister Reverend Mr. Megapolensis urged that "it is wrong to shed blood to 
no purpose." Even Stuyvesant's own son, Balthazar, affixed his name to a 
remonstrance, signed by nearly a hundred leading citizens, that pled for 
surrender. Finally, left alone in his colony, Peter Stuyvesant gave in, and on 
September 7 surrendered to the English. Colonel George Cartwright, a fel- 
low royal commissioner of Nicolls', obtained the peaceful surrender of Fort 
Orange on September 20. The English promptly assumed and continued the 
understanding the Dutch had with the Iroquois. New Netherland had dis- 

The English had one last military task: the conquest of the separate colony 
of New Amstel. Nicolls sent another royal commissioner, Sir Robert Carr, to 
the Delaware. Once again the sensible Dutch burghers of New Amstel were 
eager to surrender. But the autocratic governor d'Hinoyossa insisted on 
hopeless resistance. The English finally stormed and captured Fort Casimir 
on October 10, and English troops took revenge by plundering and killing 
some of the citizenry. The Atlantic coast from Maine to South Carolina was 
now in the hands of the English. 

It is an ironic footnote on Peter Stuyvesant's frenzy at the idea of sur- 
render that he passed his last days, in the late 1660s and early 1670s, in 
peaceful contentment on his farm in Manhattan, not only unmolested but in 
friendship with Governor Nicolls. Shorn of power, Peter Stuyvesant was a 
happier and perhaps a wiser man. 

The first step of the new governor, Colonel Nicolls, was to change impor- 
tant names from Dutch to English: and so New Amsterdam became the city 
of New York, New Netherland became New York Province, and Fort 
Orange was renamed Albany, after one of the Duke of York's titles. West of 
the Delaware, New Amstel was changed to New Castle, and Altena to 

Trouble in Delaware began immediately, as Sir Robert Carr plundered the 
Dutch settlements unmercifully, confiscating property for the use of his fam- 
ily and friends, plundering houses, and selling Dutch soldiers into servitude 
in Virginia. Nicolls rushed down to Delaware, removed Carr, and placed his 
son, Capt. John Carr, in command of the district and at the head of a council 
of seven. 

Boundary and jurisdiction offered a longer-range problem in the Delaware 
district. For Lord Baltimore claimed all of the west bank of the Delaware on 
behalf of Maryland, under Maryland's charter from Charles I. But the Duke 

•John Fiske, The Dutch and Quaker Colonies in America, 1:289. 


of York refused to remove his troops, and the Delaware region remained as 
part of New York Province. Another boundary dispute requiring settlement 
was the conflict with Connecticut According to the Duke of York's charter, 
New York could have claimed all of Connecticut up to the Connecticut 
River, thus almost obliterating the colony, but Nicolls amicably settled for 
Westchester County, and Connecticut obtained the land to the east. This ter- 
ritory included the town of Stamford, which had tried to proclaim itself an 
independent republic. On the other hand, New York, according to the clear- 
cut terms of the charter, obtained jurisdiction over all of Long Island. In 
imitation of Yorkshire in England, Nicolls promptly organized Long Island, 
Staten Island, and Westchester, with their preponderant English population, 
into one district called Yorkshire. The new district contained three subdis- 
tricts or "ridings": the East (now Suffolk County and most of Nassau 
County); the West, including what is now Kings County and Staten Island; 
and the North, including what is now Westchester, Bronx, and Queens 

As a result of the king's grant to the Duke of York, New York now in- 
cluded Delaware, the County of Cornwall (all of Maine east of the Kenne- 
bec), and such islands off Massachusetts as Nantucket and Martha's Vine- 
yard. But one breakup of the old New Netherland territory was a bitter blow 
to Nicolls' hopes of power. In June 1664, before New Netherland had even 
been won, the Duke of York had granted the territory between the Hudson 
and Delaware rivers, bounded at 41° on the north, to the proprietorship of 
two of his court favorites, John Lord Berkeley and Sir George Carteret. 
This new province of New Jersey now lay outside New York jurisdiction. 

As proprietors of New Jersey, Berkeley and Carteret were anxious to pro- 
mote rapid colonization. Hence, in February 1665 they promulgated the lib- 
eral Concessions and Agreements, which granted religious freedom to the 
inhabitants and which offered one hundred fifty acres of land for each inden- 
tured servant brought over — subject to quitrents of one-half pence per acre 
to the proprietors. Each servant, upon completing his term, was to receive 
seventy-five acres of land. Furthermore, the concessions granted the right 
of freeholders to form their own representative assembly. The governor and 
council were to be appointed by the proprietary, but no taxes could be levied 
without the approval of the assembly. (These particular provisions were vir- 
tually identical with the abortive Concessions and Agreements promulgated 
by the Carolina proprietary six weeks earlier.) Appointed as first governor of 
New Jersey was Philip Carteret, a distant relative of the proprietor. Carteret 
set up his capital at the new settlement of Elizabethtown. Attracted by the 
guarantee of religious liberty and by the open land, New Englanders soon 
poured into New Jersey, adding such settlements as Piscataway, Wood- 
bridge, Middletown, and Shrewsbury to the older Dutch town of Bergen, 
which included Pavonia and Hoboken. In particular, many citizens of New 
Haven, disgruntled at the seizure by Connecticut, came to New Jersey. The 
Reverend Abraham Pierson, the arch-Calvinist minister of Branford, led his 


flock, as we have seen, to found New Ark, Attempting to duplicate the 
theocracy of New Haven, they provided in the town constitution that 
only Puritan church members could vote. 

Meanwhile, after temporarily leaving the Dutch officials in office, Gov- 
ernor Nicolls of New York drew up, for the largely English-speaking dis- 
trict of Yorkshire, a set of fundamental laws known as the "Duke's Laws." 
The Duke's Laws did not grant anything like the degree of representative 
government achieved in the other English colonies. There was no elected 
assembly. Instead, the legislative power was exercised by a Court of Assizes, 
a body of judges appointed by and subject to the veto of the governor. On 
the other hand, trial by jury was introduced into a colony that did not have 
the safeguard before. The Anglican church was now established, with the 
church supported in each town, but freedom of conscience was granted to 
all of the sects. Neither were there any town meetings of the old New 
England model, but the towns were allowed to elect a ruling constable and 
a board of eight overseers, who were, however, accountable to the governor. 
The patroons were confirmed in their domains, now called "manors," and 
the militia was to be under the control of the provincial government. 

In general, we may say that the Duke's Laws were more liberal than the 
old despotic Dutch rule, but far inferior to New England's. For the Long Is- 
land towns, used to a considerable amount of self-government, the Duke's 
Laws were a decidedly backward step. In March 1665 a convention of thirty- 
four delegates from seventeen Yorkshire towns of Westchester and Long 
Island (thirteen English and four Dutch) was called to approve the Duke's 
Laws. The Long Islanders, who had been promised by Nicolls their original 
New England town autonomy and a popular, self-governing assembly, were 
understandably bitter at this about-face. However, to their great regret, the 
convention finally gave its approval to the laws. But the Long Island towns- 
men continued to balk, and to object bitterly to what they believed to be a 
betrayal by their own deputies. John Underhill attacked the new laws as 
"arbitrary power." They also objected vehemently to Nicolls' decree forcing 
all settlers and landowners in the province to pay a fee to the government to 
have their land titles reconfirmed. The object of the government was not 
only to obtain the fine, but to force the lands to enter the rolls to become sub- 
ject to payment of quitrents. So strong were the protests that the new Court 
of Assizes decreed that anyone criticizing the Hempstead deputies would be 
punished for "slander." Three protesters from Flushing and Jamaica were 
duly fined and placed into the stocks. The townsmen even practiced a form 
of nonviolent resistance, refusing to accept the governor's appointments as 
town constables. The governor finally imposed a fine of five pounds to force 
the appointees to accept their posts. 

Flushing was in such a rebellious state in 1667 that Nicolls finally dis- 
banded its militia and disarmed all of its citizens. And so bitter were the 
Long Island towns about reconfirming their land titles for a fee, and for sub- 


jection to quitrents, that they did not confirm the titles for the entire first 
decade of English rule. These New Englanders had always been able to own 
their land in full without having to pay feudal quitrents. 

Another deep economic grievance of the Long Islanders was Nicolls' 
attempt to enforce the payment of customs taxes on direct trade with Long 
Island — a threat that was countered by extensive smuggling. Nicolls* attempt 
included the hated appointment of a deputy collector of customs for Long 
Island to supplement the collector at New York City. 

In New York City a similar but even less democratic system was imposed; 
all the municipal officials were appointed annually by the governor. The En- 
glish offices of mayor, alderman, and sheriff replaced such Dutch posts as 
the Koopman and the Schout-Fiscal. The Dutch population of the city pro- 
tested this arbitrary rule at length and asked at least for the right of the judi- 
cial and legislative New York City Council to present two lists, from which 
the governor would have to choose the next council. This concession was 
finally granted in 1669. In 1668 the Duke's Laws were extended to Delaware 
and to the remainder of New York, excluding such predominantly Dutch 
areas as Kingston, Albany, and the new western settlement of Schenectady, 
where the Dutch laws and institutions were allowed to remain. 

During the second Anglo-Dutch War of 1664-67, in which the French took 
the side of the Dutch, Nicolls, as the king's spokesman in America, called 
repeatedly for joint New York-New England action against Dutch and 
French America. But New England and especially Massachusetts pursued a 
wise course of peace and neutrality. In February 1666 England, joined by 
Nicolls, instructed the New England colonies to organize an expedition for 
the purpose of seizing Canada from the French. But the New Englanders 
stalled and the project came to nothing, much to the annoyance of Governor 
Nicolls, who had to be content with depriving the Dutch citizens, the great 
majority of the population of the province, of all their arms. 

The Dutch citizens suffered considerable grievances from the English 
troops, especially during the war. Nicolls imposed heavier taxes upon them 
to maintain these troops, and billeted the troops in the homes of the un- 
willing Dutch burghers. Tax delinquency rose sharply during the war period, 
and when Nicolls requested aid in fortifying New York City, the Dutch 
balked so long as their own arms were not returned to them — certainly a 
telling point. Even Governor Nicolls recognized that the English soldiers 
tended to treat the Dutch citizens very badly. One important incident oc- 
curred at the Dutch town of Esopus (now Kingston) in 1667. Here the En- 
glish Captain Brodhead ruled the citizenry in high-handed and dictatorial 
fashion. One time, Brodhead denounced a man for celebrating Christmas in 
the Dutch rather than in the Anglican manner. Finally, Brodhead refused to 
obey the wish of the civil authorities of the town to set a certain prisoner 
free. When the Kingstonians protested, Captain Brodhead threatened to 
burn down the town. The threat was enough to cause a riot, and finally an 


attack on Brodhead; a Dutchman was killed in the melee by one of Brod- 
head's troop. The governor then stepped in to suspend Brodhead and also 
punish the leading Dutch resisters. 

The Dutch citizens of New York City also had an important economic 
grievance, and good reason to deem themselves economically betrayed by 
the new regime. In the surrender treaty of New Netherland, the English had 
made various promises that trade with Holland and in Dutch ships would 
continue freely. But this was in direct conflict with the English Navigation 
Acts. What was to be done? Nicolls at first allowed a few selected New 
York merchants to trade with Holland. After the war was over, agitation for 
permission to trade with Holland was renewed. To avoid a decline in the In- 
dian fur trade (the Indians preferred Dutch goods), and wholesale emigra- 
tion by the Dutch citizens, Nicolls persuaded the Duke of York in 1667 to 
permit Dutch trade with New York. And yet, in late 1668, this right was 
abruptly canceled, despite strong protests from the Dutch officials of the 
city government, as contradictory to basic English imperial policy. 



The Northern Colonies in 

the Last Quarter of the 

Seventeenth Century 


The Northern Colonies, 1666-1675 

By the mid- 1660s the enormous impact of the Restoration crisis in the 
northern colonies was over, and the colonies began to settle down to their 
changed conditions. In New England, Connecticut, and Rhode Island not 
only self-governing remained, but confirmation of this role was won by roy- 
al charter. Rhode Island also retained its control over Narrangansett Coun- 
try despite Connecticut's attempted seizure. Connecticut succeeded in 
seizing and annexing the Colony of New Haven, thus eliminating the last 
major bastion of Calvinist ultraorthodoxy in New England. Massachusetts 
triumphed over the attempts of the royal commission to bring it to heel, and 
it remained defiant and self-governing. The Maine towns were organized 
into a separate government by the commissioners, but they were soon rean- 
nexed by Massachusetts Bay. But the rigid rule of the Massachusetts theo- 
cratic oligarchy was steadily weakening from within as the more liberal 
merchants rose to greater influence with the rise of Boston as a crucial trade 
center of New England. The Half-Way Covenant demonstrated the weak- 
ening of the Puritan zeal of the younger generation of the Bay Colony, and 
the persecution of the Quakers was virtually over. 

In the Middle Colonies, the critical event was the almost bloodless sei- 
zure of New Netherland by the English, and its transformation into the pro- 
prietary colony of New York, owned by the Duke of York. The province 
included the district of New Castle (now Delaware) but the intermediary 
area of New Jersey was granted to two of the Duke's favorites, who intro- 
duced a representative government far more liberal than that of New York 
in order to encourage rapid settlement. And the principle of religious lib- 
erty, Quakers included, spread through the colonies upon its triumph in New 
York and New Jersey. 

The accession of English rule in New York touched off the second Anglo- 
Dutch War (1664-67), and the Treaty of Breda (July 1667) formally ceded 


New Netherland to England. Free trade between New York and Holland 
was also agreed upon for a seven-year period. Nicolls' successor as governor, 
Col. Francis Lovelace, won the approval of the people in 1668 by abolishing 
New York City's two social castes, created by Peter Stuyvesant a decade 
before. These were the "great burghers" (including government officials, 
officers of the militia, ministers, and others paying fifty guilders into the 
city treasury) and the "small burghers" (including all others in the city, and 
strangers paying a fee of twenty-five guilders). Only great burghers had 
been eligible for public office and had been exempt from certain penalties in 
criminal cases. The abolition of this caste system was applauded, but the 
conflict with the Long Island towns continued and intensified. New York 
was now the only colony imposing taxes without the consent of a represen- 
tative assembly, and the New Englanders on Long Island were used to far 
better treatment. And as we have seen, the Long Islanders deeply resented 
the requirement of paying customs duties at the same rate as New York 
City. In addition, they protested bitterly a tax that was levied on them in 
1670 by Governor Lovelace to pay for repairs to the fort on Manhattan — 
formerly Fort Amsterdam, now Fort James. The Long Island towns drew up 
a remonstrance at Huntington that declared their refusal to pay such a tax 
and that rested their case on the time-honored principle of English liberties 
and of "no taxation without representation." We have seen that a similar 
tax protest had wrung representative government (albeit an oligarchic one) 
from Massachusetts in 1631; but now the resistance was dealing with royal 
authority. Lovelace denounced the protest as seditious, ordered the signers 
prosecuted, and had the petition publicly burned at the city hall. And the 
people, who had so recently been promised "English liberties" instead of 
arbitrary Dutch rule, were now told that their "liberty" should consist of 
thinking of nothing but "how to pay taxes." 

In 1673 the embittered eastern Long Island towns of Southampton, 
Southold, and East Hampton petitioned the king for separate English chart- 
ers for themselves. These rejected, they asked the king, unsuccessfully, 
to be allowed to return to the jurisdiction of Connecticut. Their reasons: 
the lack of a representative assembly, the lower tax rates in Connecticut, 
and their natural trading ties with New England (including exchange of 
Long Island whale oil for New England goods). 

Another cause of discontent lay in New York City. There the government 
organized the cartmen into a monopoly cartel or guild: the guild was 
granted the monopoly of the carting business in the city. In return, the cart- 
ers were forced to work for the city one day a week. As guaranteed monop- 
olists, the cartmen naturally felt that they no longer had to supply their 
customers with efficient or courteous service; and the courts of the city 
tried to correct the matter by threatening to allow nonguild carters to op- 
erate. But these threats did not overcome the unfortunate consequences of 
the government's original intervention: the guild monopoly. 

In New Jersey the new settlers from New England, used to democratic 
self-government, quickly began chafing at the rule of Governor Philip 


Carteret. Even though the regime was far more liberal than New York's, 
this was the New Englanders' first encounter with a proprietary governor 
and his appointed Council, able to veto their decisions. When New Jersey's 
first Assembly opened in 1668, trouble began almost immediately as the 
people of Middletown repudiated the election of their deputies, asserting 
that it was invalid. Their basic complaint was that the deputies, John 
Bowne (not the same Bowne who had led the protest in Flushing) and James 
Grover, violated their liberties by voting for an onerous five-pound tax on 
townships. Middletown rested its legal case on a land grant that had been 
made to it by Governor Nicolls, before the proprietary grant of New Jersey to 
Berkeley and Carteret had become known. Middletown then chose two 
others as their successors, and the nearby townsmen of Shrewsbury se- 
lected still others to replace Bowne and Grover, who had also represented 
them. But Middletown and Shrewsbury insisted that their representatives 
add to their oath of allegiance the proviso that they could recognize the 
validity of no act impinging on the liberties of their original patent, which 
included a seven-year exemption from township taxes. 

The Assembly, however, disqualified the proviso and the next delegates 
and the two towns refused to pay the five-pound township tax. And so 
Middletown prepared for rebellion. A town meeting in February 1669 
ordered its citizens on pain of penalty to aid anyone resisting removal of their 
possessions, especially by agents of the Assembly. Middletown acknowl- 
edged its allegiance to the king, but disclaimed any interest in, or 
knowledge of, the proprietors. It also objected to paying any feudal quit- 
rents to the proprietors. Middletown had already received the land from 
Nicolls and had purchased it from the Indians. What did Berkeley and 
Carteret have to do with it? Even before the Assembly had met, Governor 
Carteret had forbidden Middletown and Shrewsbury from electing any offi- 
cials, and now they were warned against exercising any functions. But 
Middletown and Shrewsbury, undaunted in the face of being declared in 
contempt of "lawful authority," remained in open defiance of the gov- 
ernment and refused to pay the township tax or quitrent. 

This was only one of the mounting troubles faced by the New Jersey au- 
thorities. The Assembly itself had broken up in disorder when the governor 
refused to allow his Council and the larger elected Assembly to meet in joint 
session, a meeting that could have meant surrender of his veto power. The 
former New Netherlands first attempt at a representative assembly had 

With no continuing Assembly and Middletown in tax rebellion, the gov- 
ernor soon found Elizabethtown joining the fray. In the spring of 1670 Eliz- 
abethtown, maintaining that its land grant from Nicolls exempted it, refused 
to pay the quitrent. A further grievance of Elizabethtown was that Carteret, 
one of its residents, insisted on making town decisions without consulting 
the town meeting. For example, Carteret had revoked the militia commis- 
sions of two popular leaders of the town, Luke Watson and John Woodruff, 
because they had disobeyed him. The following year Elizabethtown engaged 


in more open defiance: Carteret, without consulting the town meeting, 
granted town land to Robert Michel, one of his indentured servants now at 
the end of his term. In protest, the town leaders pulled down Michel's 
fence and part of his house. Carteret could do nothing in retaliation, and the 
son of one of the protesters was defiantly chosen as town constable. Finally, 
a court fined the town leaders for their part of the protest. 

Thus, by 1670-71 many of the New Jersey settlements were in revolt 
against the payment of quitrent. The New England settlers, used to ab- 
solute private freehold landed property, were not about to yield supinely 
to an attempt to impose feudal land tenure upon them. It is characteristic, 
however, that New Ark, or Newark- — the heir of New Haven's absolute 
theocracy — did not join in the tax strike. Instead, Newark reaffirmed "the 
renewal of a solemn agreement to submit to law and authority. . . ." 

By the spring of 1672 a familiar situation in the history of rebellion had 
come about: the dynamics of a revolutionary situation had proceeded beyond 
its original founders. On May 14, deputies from all the towns, even Newark, 
met in a completely illegal and unrecognized assembly, and formed an 
openly revolutionary government. All towns were represented except the 
original rebels, Middletown and Shrewsbury, which decided to keep ig- 
noring any assemblies. Of all the towns, only Woodbridge remained in sup- 
port of the established government. The revolutionary assembly proceeded 
to elect Capt. James Carteret, the younger son of the proprietor, as "Pres- 
ident of the Province." The rallying around Carteret as the revolutionary 
leader was, of course, a master-stroke; his family connection was calcu- 
lated to throw doubt and confusion into anyone loyal to the proprietary. On 
May 28, the governor and the Council issued an edict ordering the illegal 
deputies to submit to the governor's authority in ten days or face arrest as 
mutineers. To insure the split of Middletown and Shrewsbury from the rev- 
olutionary towns, the governor confirmed their old rights and privileges, 
including full power to dispose of their granted lands, freedom from tax- 
ation to support any minister that might be established in the towns, and 
the privilege to try their own minor cases. But the governor could not end 
the rebellion, and the revolutionary leader, James Carteret, arrested sev- 
eral of the governor's key aides. Finally, in July the governor fled to New 
England to seek support against the rebellion. 

By the end of 1672 the tide had turned. Arriving from the Duke of York and 
from King Charles himself were stern and unmistakable orders that com- 
manded the New Jersey rebels to submit. The proprietors completely dis- 
owned the old Nicolls land grants, restored the property taken from their 
aides, ordered the collection of quitrent arrears (for four years), and re- 
stored full governmental authority. Woodbridge was rewarded for its sup- 
port, part of its quitrents were canceled. And finally, in December, the 
proprietors reinterpreted the Concessions so as to restrict many of the 
homerule rights of the colonists. The powers of the governor and Council were 
greatly increased at the expense of the Assembly and the towns. 

The New Jersey rebellion was over. By June 1673 James Carteret, in dis- 


grace, had sailed away. The restored government ordered all the rebels to 
offer their submissions personally, and confined voting in any elections 
strictly to those holding qualified land titles from the proprietors. 

Neither was the west bank of the Delaware untroubled, although the little 
settlements were not as persistently rebellious as New Jersey. The 
majority of the residents of the New Castle district were Swedes, and in 
1669 many of them rose in rebellion against oppressive English rule. The re- 
volt was led by Henry Coleman and especially by Marcus Jacobsen, the "Long 
Finn" who, in the words of the governor's indictment, went "up and down 
from one place to another, frequently raising speeches, very seditious and 
false, tending to the disturbance of His Majesty's peace." But the uprising 
proved abortive against overwhelming New York power. Jacobsen was 
taken to New York in irons, convicted, severely whipped, branded with an 
R for rebel, and sold into slavery in Barbados. All the other rebels were forced 
to surrender to the Crown one-half of their funds, and they suffered numer- 
ous other fines and levies. To prevent any repetition of this uprising, 
Governor Lovelace decided to impose very heavy taxes on the hapless 
people of New Castle, so as not to "give them liberty to entertain any other 
thoughts than how to discharge them." In 1672 the governor took the pre- 
caution of building a fort at New Castle, to guard against any further re- 
bellion by the citizenry or possible incursions from Maryland. 

In the summer of 1673 the former provinces of New Netherland were 
unexpectedly reunited — and under their old auspices. The previous year the 
third Anglo-Dutch War had been launched with an attack on the Dutch by 
Charles II. The chief impact of the war on America was the almost bloodless 
conquest of New York — indeed of the whole former New Netherland — by 
the powerful Dutch fleet in August 1673. The conquest was made easy and 
virtually bloodless by the enthusiasm of the Dutch inhabitants of New York 
City for the return of their countrymen. The joyous citizens welcomed the 
Dutch ships, and the merchants welcomed trade with Holland once again. 

Immediately, the Middle Colonies were again renamed: New York, 
New Jersey, and New Castle reverted to New Netherland; New York City 
was changed to New Orange; Kingston to Swanenburg; Albany to Willem- 
stadt; and New Jersey became Achter Kull. The Dutch officers appointed 
Capt. Anthony Colve as governor of the reconstructed New Netherland. Colve 
also appointed Peter Alrichs to be the commander at New Castle. All English 
and French property in New Orange was confiscated, especially the specula- 
tive land properties of the former governor, Francis Lovelace. 

Almost all the inhabitants submitted readily and gratefully to the new 
rule. The Dutch towns of Breukelen and Flatbush yielded with special en- 
thusiasm, and even the English towns of western Long Island were docile. 
The major resistance came from the stubborn New England towns of the 
East Riding, on Long Island: Southhampton, East Hampton, Brookhaven, 
Southold, and Huntington. The eastern Long Island towns consistently re- 
peated their basic demands: a popular assembly (and the corollary, no 
taxation without representation), freedom of trade, and confirmation of their 


land titles. Governor Colve was willing to grant such other demands as 
religious freedom and equal rights — rights that belonged also to the Dutch 
citizens — but concerning their three basic demands, the towns received no 
more satisfaction than under Lovelace. 

Southhampton therefore sent a ringing declaration throughout New En- 
gland that it was not going to submit voluntarily "to this foreign government." 
Appealed to by the eastern towns, Governor Winthrop of Connecticut de- 
cided to guarantee their independence and sent troops into Long Island, even 
though Massachusetts refused to support him. Battles between Connecticut 
and Dutch shipping now ensued, and Governor Colve was warned by Connect- 
icut in October 1673 to keep away from these towns. The reactivated New 
England Confederation also threatened attacks on New Netherland; less 
menacing, the colonies of Massachusetts, Plymouth, and Connecticut 
pledged a mutual -defense alliance. The eastern Long Islanders also asked 
that Governor John Winthrop, Jr.'s son, Fitz, be named their commander. 

With the help of Connecticut, the eastern Long Island towns were able 
to preserve their virtual independence, and join once again their Con- 
necticut homeland. From October 1673 to April 1674 there was a series of 
battles between Connecticut and the towns on the one side and the Dutch 
on the other. At the turn of the year, the Dutch raided English shipping and 
threatened to plunder the Connecticut coastal towns. In retaliation, the 
eastern Long Islanders attacked the west end of the island, forcing the Dutch 
farmers again into Fort Amsterdam. Dutch ships were also driven off by 
Long Island and Connecticut resistance. 

In the New Jersey towns, rule under the Dutch was exercised by the pop- 
ular, or old revolutionary party. Two of its chief officials were John Ogden, 
chief Schout of the district of Kull, and Samuel Hopkins, its secretary. The 
former ruling oligarchy under Governor Carteret completely lost favor 
under the Dutch. 

The new Dutch rule did not last long enough to have much direct impact. 
With the Treaty of Westminster, February 1674, the last of the Anglo-Dutch 
wars came to a close, and New Netherland was returned to England. From 
then on, Dutch rule was purely interim, until the new English governor, 
Major Edmund Andros, could arrive in November to resume English pro- 
prietary rule. 

There were, however, important indirect consequences of the final war 
with Holland. The Crown lawyers decided that the old grant of the New 
Netherland area to the Duke of York was now invalid. Although King Charles 
regranted his brother the area in July, the confusion was enough to induce 
Lord Berkeley, who had little interest in New Jersey at best, to sell his half 
of the proprietorship in March 1674. Berkeley sold his interest for 1,000 
pounds to two English Quakers, Major John Fenwick and Edward Byllinge. 
This was a landmark in the history of America. From a universally persecuted 
sect, the Quakers now became a free, sometimes even a dominant, group. 
For a while it seemed that Berkeley's sale was prudent indeed. For the new 
tables meant new conditions. In August the Duke of York regranted New 


Jersey but not as a whole. He now gave northern New Jersey, north of a 
line due west of Barnegat Bay, to Sir George Carteret; while granting him 
the ownership, the new patent did not grant him the sovereign power. The 
sale of Berkeley's share was still unrecognized, but the new buyers now 
laid claim to the southern portion of New Jersey. 

Southern New Jersey was now in limbo. Edward Byllinge soon went into 
bankruptcy and his interest was taken over by three trustees, all Quakers, 
one of whom was William Penn. The trustees also persuaded the equally 
bankrupt Fenwick to sell them ninety percent of his share for 900 pounds. 

The ambitious Fenwick promptly organized an expedition and founded 
a settlement of his own in southern New Jersey, at Salem, in late 1675. 
At this time, there were only a handful of people in southern New Jersey 
and virtually no Englishmen. Having organized the first English settlement, 
Fenwick forthwith proclaimed himself governor and sole landowner of the 
area. He then brazenly announced his terms for "selling" the land to set- 
tlers — one pound per one thousand acres. Those who bought more than 
one thousand acres were to be freeholders, with the right to vote for a 
council of twelve to help Fenwick rule. For having one's passage paid by 
Fenwick, a person was to be an indentured servant for four years, and re- 
ceive 100 acres at the end of the term. Every freeholder was to pay Fenwick 
an annual feudal quitrent of one penny per acre. All this was to be Fenwick's 
as his supposed "tenth" share of the southern New Jersey proprietorship. 
In short order, Fenwick sold 148,000 acres to fifty purchasers, most of them 

Unsurprisingly, Fenwick came quickly into conflict with the handful of 
Dutch settlers in the area. Led by the Reverend Mr. Fabricius, these settlers 
refused to serve in the corvee — the compulsory labor force to work on the 
roads, a common practice in the colonies. To break this mass refusal, several 
arrests were made and Reverend Mr. Fabricius was forcibly suspended from 
his duties. 

The trustees naturally denounced Fenwick's assumption of power as ille- 
gal, and in July 1676 they were able to persuade Sir George Carteret to sign 
the Quintipartite Deed granting the trustees all the lands of New Jersey 
south and west of a new partition line, which ran from Barnegat Bay north- 
west to the Delaware River. For one thing, William Penn was a close friend 
of the Duke of York, and Carteret wished to cement his rather shaky title 
by coming to an agreement with Penn. The trustees now had a clear, official 
title to a larger (though uninhabited) area, called West New Jersey, while 
Carteret's area was called East New Jersey. As part of the imminent crack- 
down on Fenwick, his ten percent was granted in the deed not to Fenwick 
himself, but to his mortgagors, John Eldridge and Edward Warner, who had 
financed his expedition. Fenwick was arrested in late 1676 for assuming 
governmental functions as "lord proprietor" and especially for divesting ex- 
isting settlers of "his" lands in order to sell them for his own gain. Fenwick 
was convicted by the Court of Assizes in New York, but released on parole 
after paying a modest fine. 



The Beginning of Andros' Rule 
in New York 

Sir Edmund Andros arrived in November 1674. Almost immediately he re- 
named New York and its towns, reappointed the old English magistrates, 
confirmed previous land grants, and again proclaimed the Duke's Laws 
throughout the province. Andros also confronted a problem: the revolutionary 
towns on eastern Long Island. Having been liberated by Connecticut troops, 
these long-time rebellious towns — expecially Southold, East Hampton, and 
Southampton — now proclaimed themselves to be part of Connecticut. 
Andros threatened to deal with these towns as if they were in outright re- 
bellion. He successfully insisted that Winthrop give up any claim to the Long 
Island towns and managed to intimidate the protesters. One Long Island 
critic was sentenced to a severe whipping for writing "seditious letters." 
Confronted by force majeure as well as the royal charter, the Long Island 
towns reluctantly succumbed. 

In that era, a change of regime often meant imposition of a loyalty oath, 
and Andros decided the following spring (1675) to impose on all an oath of al- 
legiance, similar to the one imposed by Nicolls a decade earlier. But the 
Dutch burghers of New York City remembered that Nicolls had promised 
them religious liberty and other rights against oppression, and that Nicolls 
had readily agreed to a proviso that his forced loyalty oath would not im- 
pinge on these rights protected by the articles of capitulation. The leading 
Dutch burghers of Manhattan, headed by the original leader of a decade 
before, Cornelius Steenwyck, now urged the same proviso upon Andros. But 
the Dutch burghers soon found that Andros was no Nicolls. Andros promptly 
charged them with inciting a rebellion. The stunned burghers — including such 
leaders as DePeyster, Kip, Bayard, and Beekman — asked for permission to 


sell their estates and leave New York. Andros' answer was to send eight of 
them to jail for "mutinous" and inflammatory behavior. When their case 
came to trial in October 1675, Andros shrewdly reduced the charge to 
trading without having taken the oath of allegiance. Facing confiscation of 
their goods, the burghers scrambled to take the oath and secure remission 
of the penalty, and the other rebellious citizens of Manhattan followed their 

The Long Island towns, in the meanwhile, found none of their long- 
standing grievances abated. Indeed, their troubles were greater now under 
the tyrannical Andros. Andros insisted on payment of fees to confirm land 
titles and subsequent payment of the hated annual quitrent. The Long Island 
towns, led by Southampton and Southold, insisted, as they had before, that the 
freemen were entitled to their lands, by Indian purchase and subsequent 
settlement and use. But Andros refused to be lenient and in fact threatened 
to confiscate all the lands and throw them open to all would-be occupiers. It 
was only then, in 1676, that the towns reluctantly complied. But even then 
the quitrents that Andros levied on these towns as a penalty for their resist- 
ance could only be collected by force. 

One significant development of this era was the widening of libertarian 
discontent over the oppressive policies of the central government, from the 
Long Island towns to other parts of New York. Such Dutch towns as Kingston 
speedily grew delinquent in payment of the newly imposed quitrents. The 
Long Island towns again led in vigorous opposition to taxes imposed by the 
Andros administration. Once again they dragged their heels in contributing 
toward the upkeep of Fort James, this time in 1674. Further, they resisted 
paying for the construction of a fort in their own Oyster Bay. During King 
Philip's War of 1675-76, Andros did not dare impose higher taxes on Long Is- 
land, but asked instead for voluntary contributions. And as early as 1676 
Huntington was already over a year behind in payment of its property tax to 
the province, and various towns continued to refuse to pay excise taxes on 
liquor. Eastern Long Island also continued to press for a popular assembly, 
but here again, the significant new factor was the spread of the desire for an 
assembly to the rest of the colony. The merchants of all the towns began to 
see an assembly as their only hope of reducing the burden of new and 
higher customs duties, and of gaining the rights and liberties of their colonial 
neighbors. The Duke of York, however, flatly rejected the idea as "of dan- 
gerous consequence, nothing being more known than the aptness of such 
bodies to assume to themselves many privileges which prove destructive to, 
or very oft disturb, the peace of the government. . . ." And so New York 
continued to be the only English colony without a representative assembly. 

The same English ship that brought Major Andros to America also brought 
Philip Carteret, returning as governor of New Jersey, at least of its northeast- 
ern — and overwhelmingly the most populous — half. The governor, under in- 
structions from Sir George Carteret, reconfirmed the interpretation of the 
original Concessions, issued in 1672, therewith expanding the powers of gov- 


ernor and Council at the expense of the Assembly. Land grants made by 
Carteret were confirmed, and those by Nicolls disavowed. All were required 
to obtain their land titles from the governor and pay the imposed quitrents. 
Nicolls' patentees were to receive 500 acres of land each. The old magistracy 
was returned to power. However, an act of amnesty, or "oblivion," was 
adopted in the first Assembly of 1675, pardoning all rebellious and treason- 
able offenses made during the time of troubles, from 1670 to 1673. 

From the very first meeting of the New Jersey Assembly in 1675, however, 
the deputies resumed their objections, and demanded joint sessions of the 
governor's Council and the Assembly. And yet, the same Assembly imposed 
penalties up to and including banishment for such "crimes" as speaking con- 
temptuously of officials. The original law forcing every male to equip himself 
with arms and ammunition, and to undergo military training for four days a 
year, was reconfirmed. Every town was commanded to maintain a fort. 
There were no exceptions for Quakers, who were virtually nonexistent in 
Eastern New Jersey. 

Until 1675 there had been no levy in New Jersey to pay a salary to the gov- 
ernor, but now, along with the general increase of taxes, special appropria- 
tions for this expense were voted by the Assembly. In addition, a voluntary 
subscription was authorized for the salary in arrears. When subscriptions 
lagged, the Assembly directed each town to appoint a committee to raise the 
amount, and a lag in response was to be met by a compulsory levy on the 
town. The subscription was now clearly less "voluntary" than before. Even 
so, the Assembly voted, in the fall of 1676, a tax for the governor's salary, pay- 
able in wheat, peas, and tobacco. Taxes in general were payable in wheat, 
tobacco, and other agricultural staples. 

Although no jurisdictional clashes occurred in these years between New 
York and New Jersey, troubles were in store. For instance, the Duke of York, 
at the very time he regranted northern New Jersey to Sir George Carteret, 
also appointed Andros as governor of all the land from the Connecticut to the 
Delaware rivers! This manifest contradiction could not hope to remain dor- 
mant and unresolved forever. 

We have already touched on the remarkable change in the political for- 
tunes of the Quakers. A similar shift occurred in New York itself. The Duke 
of York appointed, along with Andros, William Dyer, a Quaker and son of Wil- 
liam and Mary Dyer of Rhode Island, as collector of the port of New York. Fur- 
ther, Andros, an Anglican, had a lieutenant governor who was a Catholic, 
Anthony Brockholls. These appointments reflected what has been called a 
"peculiar" alliance among Quakers, Catholics, and high Anglicans during the 
Restoration era. The alliance was not so peculiar, however, if we remember 
that these three groups had been persecuted in England, and in English and 
Dutch America, by a common enemy — Calvinism. 



Further Decline of the 
Massachusetts Theocracy 

The late 1660s and early 1670s saw an intensification of the trends that 
had arisen in Massachusetts Bay: a continuing decline in the power and vi- 
tality of the Puritan theocracy, and a rise in the influence of the nonzealot 
and even non-Puritan merchants in Boston and the other large towns. 

The rise of the merchants, and the relative affluence and cosmopolitanism 
accompanying that rise, brought a growing awareness of doom to the older 
Puritan generation. The growing wealth and sophistication greatly weak- 
ened Puritan zeal among the younger generation. Mobility, enterprise, and 
consumer enjoyments more and more replaced the old fanatical asceticism. 
Many of the leading merchants were Anglicans who could not, with the ad- 
vent of Restoration, be any longer persecuted, and even the Puritan mer- 
chants grew less and less interested in becoming church members. 

The old-guard Puritans ranted and raved, of course, against the rising new 
order as they saw their power and ideals slipping from view. Frantically the 
theocrats denounced avarice, gain, pride, the spirit of trade, "idolatry," and 
the pursuit of wealth and the good things of life. The Reverend John Higgin- 
son, whose own sons were to be merchants, thundered in 1663 that "this is 
never to be forgotten: that New England was originally a plantation of Reli- 
gion, not a plantation of Trade." At every hand came a lament for the good 
old days. The Reverend Urian Oakes declared sadly in 1673: "He that remem- 
bers the good old spirit of those who followed God into this wilderness . . . 
cannot but easily discern a sad alteration." The following year Rev. Samuel 
Torrey bemoaned the new "spirit of profaneness, a spirit of pride, a spirit of 
worldliness, a spirit of libertinism, a spirit of carnality. . . . Truly, the very 
heart of New England is changed and exceedingly corrupted with the sins of 
the times." 


A few years later Rev. Increase Mather, emerging as the spiritual leader 
of the colony, again recalled that "religion and not the world was what our 
fathers came hither for/' He railed against the new luxurious fashions being 
increasingly adopted, against those "monstrous and horrid periwigs," the 
new wigs for women, and "such like whorish fashions, whereby the anger of 
the Lord is kindled against the sinful land!" The colony was also increasingly 
"infected" with such sinful pastimes as mixed dancing. 

The New England Synod of 1679 also complained of the growing inatten- 
tion to the Lord's Day: many people were insisting on walking and trav- 
eling, talking in a worldly manner, and working on the Sabbath. Here again 
we see that rigorous persecution had proved to be a failure. Profanity was on 
the increase too, and the Synod worried that the "glorious name of God" was 
being commonly profaned. Long hair among men, long denounced by Puri- 
tans, was deplored by the General Court in 1675 as "a sign of evil pride." But 
here the long-haired had ample Puritan precedent, including Oliver Crom- 
well and such magistrates as John Winthrop, John Endecott, and Simon 

We have seen that even the good old Massachusetts tradition of religious 
persecution was fading away during this period. In the latter 1670s the per- 
secution of Quakers and Baptists ceased and a Quaker meetinghouse and 
Baptist church were allowed, at last, to continue unmolested. 

As the theocracy dwindled in importance, the merchants arose. For private 
merchants, trade connections often depended on family connections, and 
intermarriage among merchants began to breed new names of stature in 
the colony: the Tyngs and Bradstreets; the Whartons and Dudleys, Breedons 
and Hutchinsons; in the New Hampshire towns, the Vaughans, Waldrons, 
and Cutts were becoming prominent; and in the Maine towns, the Frosts 
and Pepperrells. 

The Navigation Acts, as we have noted, had so far not been a hindrance to 
New England trade; they had not yet been enforced, and they remained 
unenforced after Massachusetts sent the royal commission packing. But in 
1673 Parliament passed another Navigation Act that was to have a fateful 
impact on the American colonies. In the Navigation Act of 1660, important 
"enumerated articles" of colonial produce, such as tobacco, could be shipped 
only to England or its colonies. The New England merchants evaded this act 
by the tortuous interpretation that if Boston ships carrying tobacco from Vir- 
ginia and North Carolina stopped first in Boston, then Boston was free to re- 
export the tobacco to France and other European countries. Seeing their 
expected monopoly dissolved by this practice, the London merchants clam- 
ored for, and obtained, the Navigation Act of 1673, which cracked down on 
this newly emergent trade. According to this act, (1) a heavy tax on the enu- 
merated products was levied at the port of clearance (for example Boston), 
a tax that was equal to the import tax on those goods in England; (2) ship- 
masters had to be bonded in order to ensure that their exported goods ar- 
rived in England or an English colony; and, perhaps most important, (3) En- 


glish customs commissioners were to appoint agents in the colonies to 
enforce these and other regulations. These provisions not only outlawed the 
export of sugar and tobacco to any country but England; they also meant a 
double tax on such goods if exported to England in New England ships, which 
had to pay a double tax by stopping in Boston, whereas English ships, im- 
porting directly to England, paid only one tax. 

We have observed the terrible impact of the 1673 act on the North Carolina 
economy — and, for that matter, of the whole structure of the Acts on the Vir- 
ginia economy and on the price of tobacco. And we have remarked the im- 
possibility of the enforcement of this act on the thinly populated North Caro- 
lina coast; theCulpeper rebellion of 1677 was occasioned by the enforcement 
of the act, and was supported by the New England merchants. 

The London merchants also wanted enforcement of all the Navigation 
Acts because their New England rivals had been extensively smuggling cheap 
imports from European countries. The Massachusetts government strongly 
protested the Navigation Act of 1673, but to no avail. In fact, by the mid-1670s 
England, the Dutch wars over, was prepared to strike the decisive blow 
against Massachusetts' independence, self-government, and free and 
flourishing trade. England's resumption of its previously abortive policy of 
cracking down on Massachusetts stemmed largely from the breaking up 
of the Cabal government, and the fall from power of the Earl of Shaftes- 
bury in 1673. Before that fall, Shaftesbury's powerful Plantation Council 
had urged the king to send over to New England a new, far more moderate 
commission, one "not too much contrary to the present humor of the 



King Philip's War 

Since the massacre of the Pequots in 1637, there had been no open war- 
fare between whites and Indians in New England. The expansion of the 
white settlers encroached seriously on ancient Indian lands, hunting 
grounds, and fisheries. Generally, the land was sold voluntarily by the Indians, 
but, as previously noted, the Indians had no firm concept of private property in 
land, as landed property was held communally and inalienably by the tribe. 
The Indians therefore regarded the purchases as a form of lease and thus could 
not help being hostile to the whites' clearing the forests for agricultural pur- 
poses. More justifiable was the Indian resentment at the white govern- 
ment's arrogant insistence on imposing white colonial laws and sover- 
eignty over the Indians. Indians were hauled into white courts to settle dis- 
putes (even all-Indian disputes), and for failing to pay tribute and to obey 
such rigorous white laws — obviously incomprehensible to the Indians — as 
observing the Sabbath, and not blaspheming. Blasphemy, in fact, was punish- 
able by death. And particularly significant was the New Englanders* penchant 
for confiscating Indian land as punishment for Indian infractions. Further- 
more, the Narragansett Indians, who had been induced by Roger Williams to 
remain friendly during the Pequot War, were continually threatened by the 
Atherton Company's pressure for their lands. The murder of the Narragansett 
chief Miantonomo had, moreover, gone unavenged, because the Mohegan 
chief Uncas, who had done the deed with the connivance of Massachusetts 
Bay, remained under white protection. In addition, the Mohegans, Shaw- 
utucks, and Cowesits, Indians in alliance with the whites, were protected by 
the white governments though they repeatedly pillaged and murdered the 
Narragansett and Nipmuc Indians of southern New England. 


In 1660 the venerable Indian chief Massasoit died. As chief of the Wam- 
panoags of western Plymouth, on the eastern shores of Narragansett 
Bay, Massasoit had saved the original Pilgrims from starvation, and had shel- 
tered Roger Williams in his lonely trek to Narragansett Bay. He was now suc- 
ceeded by his elder son, Wamsutta, or Alexander. At this point, Plymouth 
began a series of outrageous harassments of the Wampanoags, who had by 
this time been driven into the Mt. Hope Peninsula, on Narragansett Bay, 
now the site of Bristol, Rhode Island. On mere rumor, and with no real evi- 
dence, Plymouth ordered Alexander into the General Court in 1662 to defend 
himself against the absurdly vague charge of plotting mischief. Having suc- 
cessfully defended himself against this accusation, Alexander unfortunately 
died, giving rise to suspicion among some Indians that he had been poisoned 
by the whites. Shortly afterward, Alexander's successor, his brother Metacom 
(or Philip), was similarly hauled into court to defend himself against similar 
rumor-based charges. He too was found innocent. 

In 1671 vague rumors about Philip's unfriendliness toward the whites 
were again heard, and at this time the Plymouth magistrates wanted to 
adopt the hard-line policy of striking hard and destroying the Wampanoags, 
The other colonies held Plymouth back, however, and persuaded the colony to 
agree to a meeting in April of Philip and several leading Massachusetts 
citizens, as well as Plymouth officials, at Taunton. Philip, incidentally, in- 
sisted that Roger Williams be present as guarantee of fair treatment, and 
this request was granted. 

At Taunton the Plymouth authorities made the arrogant demand that the 
Wampanoags render themselves defenseless by surrendering all their arms 
to Plymouth — and this despite the fact that no evidence against Philip was 
ever revealed. Seventy guns were- surrendered. In addition to this humilia- 
tion, Philip and several sachems were again forced to appear in September, 
and gratuitously subjected to the insulting warning that he must "amend his 
ways if he expected peace; and that, if he went on in his refractory way, he 
must expect to smart for it." The Indians again submitted and consented to 
pay a yearly tribute of five wolves' heads to the colony. 

Three years later, the harassment by Plymouth of the Wampanoags came 
to a climax. Causamon, a Christian or "praying" Indian, who had once been 
employed by Philip as a private secretary, now informed Plymouth of suspi- 
cious goings-on and possible conspiracies of some kind at Mt. Hope. Once 
again, Plymouth proposed to haul Philip into General Court to answer pri- 
vately disclosed rumors against him. This time Philip heard of the proceed- 
ings, and in March 1675 came of his own accord to the court to defend him- 
self. The authorities admitted they had no evidence of Philip's guilt, but 
were displeased that not all the Wampanoags' arms had been surrendered. 
They again harried Philip with the warning that if they heard any further 
rumors (even unproven ones), they would insist on confiscating all of the 
Wampanoags' arms. Shortly after Philip left Plymouth, the informer Causa- 
mon was found murdered. Before a jury composed of whites and Indians, 


three Wampanoags were tried, convicted, and executed for the murder, 
albeit on the flimsy evidence of only one Indian eyewitness. The execution 
was carried out despite Roger Williams* warning of the untrustworthiness 
of such Indian testimony. Here was the final straw in the accumulation of 
humiliations and provocations heaped upon Philip, capped by a further warn- 
ing from Plymouth that Philip send away many Indians of other tribes who 
had now come to Mt. Hope. 

The provocations had gone far enough. But five eminent Quakers, leaders 
of Rhode Island, headed by the deputy governor John Easton, now tried to per- 
suade Philip, in a final peace conference, to agree to impartial arbitration. 
Philip was willing to arbitrate, but was also convinced that the other colonies 
would never agree. A few days later, on June 20, the Wampanoags retali- 
ated for the execution with a raid on the neighboring town of Swansea, 
burning a couple of houses. In a few days, the raids on Swansea escalated 
into a few killings. King Philips War had now begun. A joint force from Plym- 
outh and Boston now captured Mt. Hope, but the Indians managed to 
escape from the peninsula. 

Philip proceeded to burn and ravage several Plymouth towns: Dartmouth, 
Middleborough, and Taunton. In the middle of July the war took a more omi- 
nous turn. The Nipmuc Indians in Massachusetts entered the war and rav- 
aged the Massachusetts towns of Menlen and Brookfield; they successfully 
ambushed an armed troop sent for a peace parley. All-out war now com- 
menced. Town after town was devastated. The northern Connecticut Valley 
towns of Northfield and Deerfield in Massachusetts had to be abandoned. The 
temporarily reactivated New England Confederation met on September 9 
and decided on a united and intense war effort. The three colonies agreed to 
contribute 1,000 armed men to the united force, and a quota was assigned to 
each colony: Massachusetts would supply 527 men; Connecticut, 315; and 
Plymouth, which had started it all, 158. Military conscription reached every 
male between sixteen and sixty. Massachusetts decreed death for any re- 
fusal to serve, and Connecticut prohibited the emigration of any eligible 
person. The following spring Massachusetts also forced its citizens into a 
farm-labor draft; officials were authorized "to impress men for the . . . 
carrying on of the husbandry of such persons as were called off from the same 
into the service, who had not sufficient help of their own left at home to 
manage the same." Any labor conscript who failed to report was fined, and if 
this failure was "accompanied with refractoriness ... or contempt upon au- 
thority," then the malefactor was liable to the death penalty. All men driven 
from their homes by the Indians were to be conscripted automatically for 
military duty in the places of their refuge. All trade with the Indians, not on 
government account, was forbidden on penalty of confiscation of all the 
trader's property. And, finally, no person in Massachusetts was to leave the 
town of his residence without getting the permission of the local military 
committee. It would not be surprising if some of the more reflective citizens 
of Massachusetts began to wonder who their enemy was, the Indians or 
their own government. 


The New England Confederation, in the summer of 1675, faced the 
question: Should it limit the war to its existing confines, or should it use 
the war as a point d'appui for the virtual extermination of the Indians of 
New England? Bearing in mind the usual white attitude toward the In- 
dians, we are not surprised that New England chose the latter alternative. 
The particular problem was the land-rich Narragansetts, by far the most 
powerful of the New England Indians. Despite harassment, the traditionally 
friendly Narragansetts showed no sign of joining Philip's antiwhite crusade. 
And even the almost fanatically pro-Puritan historian of New England, 
John Palfrey, admits that the confederation found not one scintilla of evi- 
dence of any sort of conspiracy between Philip and the other warring 
Indian tribes, let alone the peaceful Narragansetts. 

Provocation against the Narragansetts had been particularly virulent in 
early 1675. The son of Uncas, the white-protected Mohegan chieftain, 
murdered a relative of the Narragansett chief Canonchet. Yet the whites 
refused to take any action to punish the murderers. They refused, as well, 
to take the case to an impartial justice, and to permit any armed action 
against Uncas — thereby closing every door of redress to the Narragansetts. 
In July 1675, soon after Philip launched his attack, the confederation com- 
missioners of Massachusetts and Connecticut sent a strong military force to 
negotiate a new treaty of friendship with the Narragansetts. By mid-July 
the Narragansetts had signed a treaty, agreeing not to permit Wampanoag 
invasion of their land, and to turn over to the whites any Wampanoag 
refugees. By October it was learned that the Narragansetts had, instead, 
harbored some Indian refugees. Though a breach of the treaty, the Nar- 
ragansett decision to give haven to refugees of war was hardly a casus 
belli: indeed, offering asylum to refugees from war is a simple humanitarian 
act. But the commissioners of the New England Confederation did not react 
this way. Instead, they delivered to the Narragansetts an ultimatum that if 
the refugees were not delivered up, the uttermost severities of war would 
be visited upon them. The confederation promptly raised another 1,000 men 
under the command of Plymouth's Governor Winslow and marched in a 
war of aggression against the Narragansetts. 

This action triggered a war hysteria that swept Boston and the rest of 
New England. Even some harmless "praying Indians" living near Boston 
were set upon and murdered by white mobs. The highly respected Daniel 
Gookin, who was friend and superintendent of the Christian Indians, was 
told that it would not be safe for him to appear on the streets of Boston. 
In a final flurry, Massachusetts again persecuted the Quakers. Some Puri- 
tans disseminated the notion that the Indian war was God's punishment of 
New England for relaxing its persecution of the "idolatrous Quakers." 
Other Puritans, characteristically, theorized that God was punishing New 
England for the new fashions in wigs and fancy hairdos. 

Winslow's march into the Narrangansett Country was made without the 
consent, and against the will, of the government of Rhode Island. Hence 
the invasion was a flagrant violation of the Rhode Island charter. But the 


confederation was heedless of this fact, and heedless also of the devasta- 
tion that this extension of the war to the Narragansetts would wreak on the 
Rhode Island settlements. In fact, the Rhode Island government proposed 
to take the whole dispute to arbitration, and the Narragansetts approved. 
Implacably hard-line Plymouth refused. The Winslow forces invaded Rhode 
Island and, by the typically white tactic against the Indians of surprise 
attack, on December 19 captured the main Narragansett fort at the later 
site of South Kingstown, Rhode Island. In this terrible "Swamp Fight," 
about one thousand Indians were slaughtered, including some three hundred 
women and children. This was the turning point of the war, as it broke 
the great Narragansett power. 

How had Rhode Island arrived at its peace policy? During the late 1650s 
and 1660s, the Quakers had made enormous strides in converting a colony 
already individualistic and libertarian in spirit. In particular, the Quak- 
ers were dominant in Newport. In 1672 the increasingly irascible Roger 
Williams had once more called his old enemy the litigious William Harris, 
into court. This time the charge was disloyalty and high treason for 
favoring Connecticut's claims to the Narragansett lands. At the same time 
the administration of Governor Benedict Arnold, in league with Williams, 
passed rigorous measures to suppress agitation against high taxes, largely 
by the Quakers, and to confiscate the property of disloyal 'plotters" against 
the state. It was clear that Roger Williams had been outstripped as a cham- 
pion of liberty and freedom of advocacy. The result of Arnold's despotic 
act was an alliance between two opposition groups, the Quakers and the 
Harris forces, which jointly came to power in the Rhode Island elections of 
May 1672. 

The world's first Quaker government, with Nicholas Easton, now a 
Quaker, as governor, now embarked on a highly liberal course. Harris was 
immediately released from prison, and made an assistant of the prov- 
ince. The laws suppressing anti-tax agitators were quickly repealed as an 
invasion of the "liberties of the people." And, in an act of August 13, 1673, 
conscientious objectors were now exempted completely from military 
service for the first time in America. 

The act declared that since Rhode Island already refused to force Quakers 
or other conscientious objectors to take an oath, "how much more ought 
such men forbear to compel their equal neighbors, against their con- 
sciences, to train to fight and to kill!" In detail this historic act provided: 
"That no person . . . that is, or hereafter shall be persuaded in his con- 
science that he cannot or ought not to train, to learn to fight, nor to war, 
nor to kill any person or persons, shall at any time be compelled against 
his judgment and conscience to train, arm, or fight, to kill any person or 
persons by reason of, or at the command of, any officer of this colony, 
civil nor military, nor by reason of any by-laws here passed or formerly 
enacted . , . ." 


During the Anglo-Dutch War, however, the Easton administration seri- 
ously compromised pacifist Quaker principles, by instructing the mag- 
istrates and town military officers to build the colony's defenses. And after 
the Dutch recaptured New York, the Quaker-dominated assembly gave 
authority to the governor to appoint military commanders, and to provide 
military training for the citizens. 

In the polarization of ideology that took place, Roger Williams was 
pushed even further in a statist direction. He had already shown himself 
many times to be willing to abandon the principle of freedom of speech 
and advocacy of political ideas. He now showed himself ready to aban- 
don his most cherished principle: religious liberty. In the summer of 1672 
the great founder of the Quakers, George Fox, visited Rhode Island. 
In August, following the visit, Roger Williams engaged in a four-days 
long Great Debate first in Newport, and then in Providence, with three 
of Fox's leading disciples. The public debate attracted large crowds, and 
Williams rowed all the way from Providence to Newport to participate. 
That Williams was bitterly opposed to the Quaker creed was, of course, 
his privilege, and to be expected. But he also went so far as to call for 
"moderate" legal penalties against Quaker "uncivilities," which should 
be "restrained and punished." These incivilities, let us note, expressly 
included such harmless Quaker practices as refusing to take off their 
hats, and using the forms "thee" and "thou." All these were examples to 
Williams of "irreverence to superiors" in office, as was the Quaker re- 
fusal "to bend the knee or bow the head" to civil authority out of "pre- 
tense . . . that Christ's amity, even in civil things, respecteth no man's 
person." Moreover, the Quakers refused to "perform the ordinary civil 
duties" to the state. Williams also denounced the freedom of trade prac- 
ticed by Quaker merchants in bootlegging liquor to the Indians. Here 
Williams betrayed jealousy of his Quaker competitors in trading with the 
Indians, for he denounced Quakers for selling ammunition and liquor 
to the Indians more cheaply than their competitors. 

All this was far from being a mere exaggeration uttered in the heat 
of debate, for it was repeated in Williams' ensuing anti-Quaker pamphlet, 
George Fox Digged out of His Burrowes. Here Williams again called for 
moderate legal punishment of these crimes of disrespect to "superiors," 
and echoed the very argument of Rev. John Cotton against himself three 
decades before, that such punishment would be "as far from persecution 
(properly so called) as that is a duty and command of God unto all man- 
kind," It is no wonder that one of the debaters, William Edmundson, was 
moved to transgress the bounds of polite debate and rudely cry at Williams, 
"Old man! Old man!" (for which, by the way, he was reprimanded by 
Coddington and other leading Quakers present). Perhaps Williams was 
angered far more by the apt reproof of William Harris, who reminded 
Williams of "his former large profession of liberty of conscience. . . ." At 


any rate Williams' abandonment of religious liberty had little impact on the 
citizens of Rhode Island, who were more true to his original principles than 
was Williams himself. In fact, Quaker conversions in the colony proceeded 
all the more rapidly after the debate. William Harris was soon converted, 
and even some of the venerable Samuell Gorton's followers were con- 
verted to the Quaker faith. 

And so Rhode Island came to have a Quaker government at the start of 
King Philip's War, with the now Quaker William Coddington governor 
since 1674 It was a government that maintained Rhode Island's position 
against Connecticut land claims, but strongly insisted on a policy of neu- 
trality and peace. It was also convinced that King Philip's War was an un- 
necessary conflict, caused by the unfair treatment and persecution of the 
Indians by the other New England colonies. 

Now despite the destruction of the great Swamp Fight, Canonchet 
had managed to escape with 700 of his warriors, and they proceeded to 
retaliate against Rhode Island, burning and devastating Warwick, Paw- 
tuxet, and Providence. The Coddington administration now risked its 
own popularity by sticking to Quaker and libertarian principle and re- 
fusing to levy taxes on everyone to engage in a costly defense of the main- 
land towns. The Assembly decided that each town should provide for its 
own military security, and in March 1676 urged the mainland citizens to 
take refuge on Aquidneck Island, even promising the settlers land for each 
new family on the island. The Quakers also refused to repeal the exemption 
of conscientious objectors from the draft. The Rhode Island Assembly also 
provided that no Indian in the colony could be made a slave. 

Most of the mainlanders took advantage of the proposed refuge, and 
were joined by many people from Plymouth. A group of purist Quakers re- 
fused to nurse wounded confederation soldiers who had been shipped to 
the island on the grounds that this would be taking part in an unjust war. 
Governor Coddington, in a most un-Quakerlike reaction, forced them to do 
so. In a letter to the Massachusetts governor, Coddington noted wryly 
that Quakers were nursing wounded Massachusetts soldiers at the very 
same time that Massachusetts was castigating itself for laxity in perse- 
cuting the Quakers and was passing new laws of persecution. "We have 
prepared a hospital for yours," wrote Coddington, "while you prepare a 
house of correction for us." 

Roger Williams remained as a captain and as part of a defensive 
garrison, but Canonchet, though bitter at almost all whites, told Williams 
that "you have been kind to us for many years. Not a hair of your head shall 
be touched." And this in the midst of a desperate, inevitably hopeless war 
against overwhelming odds! 

In June Canonchet, son of Miantonomo, met the same fate as his 
father. Captured by the white forces, he was turned over to his old Indian 
enemies and was promptly butchered. For the Narragansetts, the rest 
was mopping up. By the end of the year, almost all the women, children, 


and aged had been slaughtered by the troops; the remaining warriors 
were fleeing north to Nipmuc territory. 

Just as the war was ending, Rhode Island was succumbing to war 
hysteria. Under pressure, the Quakers began to compromise their prin- 
ciples once again. Governor Coddington, who had already forced purist 
Quakers to tend wounded confederation soldiers, agreed in April to pro- 
vide a military garrison at Providence. And Quaker assemblymen led in 
setting up this garrison. In May Walter Clarke, a compromising Quaker, 
was elected governor and stepped up military preparations. Roger 
Williams now provided for the coerced sale into servitude of the Indian 
prisoners and did the same to the hapless Indian refugees who had found 
their way to Providence, formerly a town of refuge. Captain Roger Wil- 
liams, among the handful of others who had remained in devastated Prov- 
idence during the war, reaped the gains of the sales of the Indians into 
servitude. Was it for this that Canonchet had spared the head of Roger 
Williams? It should be noted, however, that Williams refused to allow 
the Indians to be sold into permanent slavery; apparently nine years 
of involuntary servitude were not so long a term as to offend his liber- 
tarian instincts. Finally, Williams and a few other magistrates held a mil- 
itary court-martial in August and executed several of the Indian prisoners. 
To the last Indian, Roger Williams warmly participated in the populace's 
demands for execution, and in the "clearing" of the town of "all the 
Indians, to the great peace and content of all — the "all" presumably not 
including the Indians who had been sold into servitude. 

The elections of May 1677 demonstrated the political futility of com- 
promise; the war party led by Benedict Arnold swept the Quakers out of 
office. One of the first acts of the new Assembly was to repeal the exemp- 
tion of conscientious objectors from military service. While inconsistently 
protesting devotion to religious liberty, the new act thundered that "some 
under pretense of conscience" had taken the liberty to void the power of the 
military, and therefore of the civil power itself. As as result, Rhode Island 
was now destitute of required military forces — though who the new 
"enemy" was supposed to be, was not explained. 

To return to King Philip's War, with the destruction of Canonchet 
and the Narragansetts only fighting to the north remained. There the 
Wampanoags and their allies fought valiantly on, through the winter and 
spring of 1676, holding their own in raids and sorties against far superior 
military odds. But the Indian guerrilla warfare was defeated, in the long 
run, by the Indians' shortage of food. They did not have the food supplies to 
permit them to fight en masse. Throughout the entire war, the Indians 
could find food only by pillaging settlements, and that source inevitably 
dried up after a few months. The Indians could not take the route of suc- 
cessful guerrilla fighting by living off a much larger group of peasant sup- 

By April and May the Nipmucs had been largely annihilated, and by 


the end of June the remainder of the Narragansetts had gone the way of 
the fallen Canonchet. The war now began to accelerate toward its end. 
Only King Philip and his Wampanoags remained and he was deserted by 
informers and defecting tribesmen. Driven into his old lair at Mt. Hope, 
Philip was betrayed by an informer. In a white sneak attack on August 
12, King Philip was shot. His skull was publicly exhibited on a pole at 
Plymouth for the next quarter of a century. 

King Philip's War was thus over by the end of August 1676 and New En- 
gland faced the question of what to do about those scattered Indians who 
had not been exterminated. Faced with the problem of Indian prisoners, 
New England did not hesitate: mass deportation into slavery. Most of the 
Indian captives were shipped to the West Indies to be sold into slavery. 
But Indians, in contrast to African Negroes, were notoriously unsuited for 
slave labor and died quickly in slavery. Those slaves for whom the confed- 
eration could not find purchasers were set ashore on deserted coasts and 
abandoned to their fate. There were several objectors to this barbarity, in- 
cluding one of the heroes of the war, Capt. Benjamin Church, and the 
saintly John Eliot, long-time friend and missionary to the Indians. Eliot 
warned the confederation commissioners that "to sell souls for money 
seemeth to me dangerous merchandise." But more typical was the sen- 
timent of the colony's leaders concerning what to do with the little nine- 
year-old son of Philip, now a prisoner of war. The child was finally sold 
into slavery in the West Indies, but some ministers urged a more se- 
vere penalty. One minister insisted that the Bible did permit murder of 
innocent children for the sins of their parents. The eminent Rev. In- 
crease Mather opined that "though David had spared the infant Hadad, 
yet it might have been better for his people if he had been less mer- 

Although the little heir to Philip was not killed outright, over a dozen 
leading Indian sachem prisoners were executed. And the mostly 
friendly "praying" Indians were, during the war, herded into concentration 
camps, from which they could not go further than a mile unless accompanied 
by a white man. Violation meant imprisonment or death. Many of these 
were later conscripted into military service for the whites. And even after 
the war, the praying Indians, as well as other remaining Indians, were 
either herded into prescribed and supervised villages and deprived of their 
arms, or ordered to remain as indentured servants in white families, 
there to be "taught and inducted in the Christian religion." Now virtually 
wards of the white government, the Indians were prevented from as- 
sembling. One Indian in each group of ten was appointed by the govern- 
ment to be held "responsible" for all the deeds of the others in his cell. 

The hard-line policy of total victory, or the virtual extermination of the 
Indians of New England, had in little more than a year succeeded in its 
highly dubious objective. But at what cost? Fully six percent of the men of 
military age in New England, or about a thousand men, had been killed. 


Twenty towns in New England had been totally destroyed. Of the ninety 
towns in Massachusetts and Plymouth, twelve had been destroyed. And 
fully half of the towns in New England had been severely damaged. The 
monetary cost was fearful; a total of 90,000 pounds had been spent by the 
government to prosecute the war. The war debt of Plymouth alone has 
been calculated at greater than the total valuation of personal property 
of the colony at that time. 

A direct sequel to King Philip's War took place in the far north, as soon 
as the main war had ended. In the fall of 1675 the Tarratine Indians of 
Maine had ravaged Falmouth and other towns of the Maine coast. With 
food scarce, the Tarratines concluded a treaty with the whites in December 
and promised to remain peaceful from then on. The Indians complained, 
however, of ill treatment at the hands of the whites, and particularly 
chafed at being prohibited from purchasing ammunition, so necessary for 
hunting game. The fall of Philip the next August stimulated the Tarratines 
to go on the warpath again, and the English had to abandon every settle- 
ment between Casco Bay and the Penobscot (that is, east of the densest 
concentration of settlements north of the Piscataqua). Massachusetts 
organized a military force in the area, headed by Major Richard Waldron, 
the eminent merchant of Dover. At this point, on September 15, four hun- 
dred Indians came peacefully into the white camp to parley for peace, 
and Major Waldron employed a typical white stratagem to seize them. 
Convivially, Waldron proposed a mock battle between the two forces. The 
Indians shot their muskets into the air as part of the war game, but the 
whites held their fire, surrounded the Indians, and disarmed them. One- 
half of the Indians, supposedly identified either as "murderers of white 
colonists or as violators of the old treaty," were sent as prisoners to Boston. 
Naturally, the rest of the tribe promptly resumed its attacks, and other 
Maine settlements were devastated or abandoned. The war continued 
during all of 1677, with little success for the whites. Finally, the colonial 
government decided that a peace policy might be wiser after all. In August 
1677 the Indians concluded peace with Edmund Andros' representative 
in the province of Cornwall, and the following April Massachusetts con- 
cluded a treaty of peace with the Indians. This was not unconditional 
surrender on either side; the Indians agreed to surrender all prisoners with- 
out a ransom, and to refrain from molesting the settlers. In return, the 
white governments were to pay the Indians an annual tribute of a peck 
of corn for each family settled in Maine. 

When King Philip's War began, Sir Edmund Andros decided to take ad- 
vantage of New England's distraction by seizing Connecticut in behalf 
of New York — or at least the great bulk of Connecticut west of the Con- 
necticut River. Since the Duke of York's charter was now brand new, 
cogent legal argument held that the Nicolls treaty of 1664, granting the 
territory west of the river to Connecticut, was now invalid. In this aggres- 
sive design, Andros was encouraged by the Duke of York. In May 1675 


Andros informed the Connecticut Assembly of his intention of assuming 
jurisdiction. To Connecticut's reminder of the favorable award of the royal 
commission, Andros again replied that the duke's charter superseded the 
commission. Connecticut again refused, and suggested a friendly con- 

Governor Andros, however, was not the man for friendly conferences 
when violence could be employed. He denounced Connecticut's stub- 
bornness as virtual rebellion. With King Philip's War now breaking out 
in June, Andros informed the Connecticut Council on July 7 that he was 
dispatching posthaste his troops to the Connecticut River. Professor Dunn 
aptly summarizes the Connecticut reaction: "Whether Andros* soldiers 
were to be used against the Indians or against the Connecticut govern- 
ment was unclear, but the Council members could guess. They sent a 
company of militia commanded by Capt. Thomas Bull to Saybrook with the 
instructions to protect the seacoast from the approach of an enemy'— 
either redskinned or redcoated."* Andros managed to reach Fort Say- 
brook first, but there he was confronted with armed and glowering local 
militiamen. Andros had expected to find the militia away fighting 
Indians and to seize the undefended fort. Instead, the militiamen were 
preparing their cannons. In this crisis the Connecticut General Assembly 
stood fast. It directed Captain Bull to tell Andros to go to Mt. Hope if 
he really wanted to fight Indians, but to resist if he tried to land his 
troops. Andros, his bluff called, contented himself with reading aloud a 
proclamation of the duke's charter. The Connecticut force countered with 
a proclamation of its own, protesting Andros' illegal actions, and call- 
ing Andros a disturber of the public peace. Feebly protesting this as slander, 
Andros sailed back home. Connecticut had successfully resisted the loss 
of its self-government by the imperialist seizure of Andros and New York. 
Interestingly enough, the Hartford government's reaction was to com- 
mend Bull and the other officers, but to complain that they acted too mildly. 
Andros' reading of the duke's charter, they said, should have been 
drowned out by the drums of Connecticut troops. 

*Richard S. Dunn, Puritans and Yankees (Princeton, N. J.: Princeton University Press, 
1962), p. 183. 



The Crown Begins the Takeover 
of New England, 1676-1679 

It was 1675. The last Dutch war was well over and King Charles II was 
free to turn his attention to longer-run concerns. Furthermore, the rel- 
atively liberal Cabal administration, which had succeeded Clarendon in 
the mid-l660s, had now fallen, to be replaced by the absolutist Earl 
of Danby. With the accession of Danby, Charles determined to scrap his 
relatively tolerant administration at home, his flirting with liberty for 
Catholics and Dissenters, and to embark instead on an absolutist course: 
royalist and theocratic-Anglican. In colonial affairs, with the relatively 
liberal Shaftesbury now in opposition instead of in power, Charles deter- 
mined that absolutism would hold sway there as well. As he looked 
overseas, it became obvious what was the stumbling block to absolute 
royal power: New England; New England that had the temerity to govern 
itself, without so much as a royal governor, and to trade freely with blithe 
disregard for the ever-tightening English imperial Navigation Acts. And at 
the heart and head of New England, Massachusetts Bay, overwhelmingly 
the most populous and most prosperous colony, the successful defier of the 
king's royal commission a decade before. Massachusetts — the seat of the 
prosperous rising merchant groups, who were the primary scoffers at restric- 
tive trade laws and the main thorns in the side of those London merchants 
that had pushed through the Navigation Act of 1673, the purpose of which was 
to enforce the navigation laws. It was high time, on many counts, to impose 
the imperial power on New England. 

The first preliminary step in the drive to centralize royal power over the 
colonies came in 1675, when the king transferred the handling of colonial 
affairs to a new committee of the Privy Council, the Lords of Trade and 


Plantations, with more power than previous committees in the imperial 
bureaucracy. The lords realized that the main function of the goal of absolute 
power was to regulate, monopolize, and extract revenue from colonial trade. 

The first direct step in King Charles' campaign to seize New England 
began in 1676, when the Lords of Trade appointed Edward Randolph to 
go to New England and check on its situation and on enforcement of 
the Navigation Acts. Randolph also carried a letter from the king to Mas- 
sachusetts, ordering the colony once again to send agents to answer the 
various charges against her, including the Gorges and Mason claims to the 
Maine and New Hampshire towns. The June morning in 1676 when Ran- 
dolph arrived in Massachusetts marked the beginning of the end of the 
autonomy and virtual independence, and many of the liberties, of the 
New England colonies. 

Edward Randolph was the perfect choice for heading an expanded im- 
perial bureaucracy. He was the very model of the royal bureaucrat and 
placeman, dedicated to maximizing the power and plunder of the 
Crown — for the benefit of king and self. He was an arch-royalist and 
high Anglican. He was grasping and arrogant before his inferiors, while 
obsequious before his betters. Randolph was by marriage a cousin to 
Robert T. Mason, the son of John Mason, who was pressing for his old 
claim over the New Hampshire towns and who was largely responsible 
for Randolph's appointment. Thus, Randolph had a special, personal in- 
terest in the assertion of royal authority over the New Hampshire towns, 
and their separation from Massachusetts rule. 

Edward Randolph was also a model of the new breed of imperial 
bureaucrat for another critical reason: he was a leading official emerging 
not from the great aristocratic families, but from the ranks of the bur- 
geoning royal bureaucracy itself. Like such contemporaries as Sir Robert 
Southwell and William Blathwayt, Randolph was a creature of the new 
imperial civil service. And this common experience forged in this new 
breed a common class or "caste" interest, an interest that joined the 
power and fortunes of the king to their own.* 

Massachusetts, used to its independence, treated Randolph's message 
from the king with its accustomed short shrift. Governor John Leverett 
at first refused to take off his hat for the reading of the king's letter. When 
Randolph complained of the extensive violations of the navigation laws, 
of the foreign ships and the cargo of Spanish wines he had seen in the 
harbor, Leverett staunchly replied that English laws were only applicable 
in "what consists with the interest of New England." 

•As Professor Hall expresses it: "Early in the decade of the 1670s ... the great families 
were being replaced in high government office by men of more humble origins. The permanent 
Civil Service was being born. . . . These men owed their position not to family or wealth, but to 
the crown. To the crown they returned a heightened loyalty, and they would expect the same 
from others" (Michael Garibaldi Hall, Edward Randolph and the American Colonies, 1676- 
1703 [Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, I960], p. 18). 


It took Randolph only a week to decide on what should be done with 
Massachusetts: smash it. It was a course he would urge for years. King 
Philip's War was not quite over, and so now — now was the time to act. He 
warned: "Three frigates of forty guns with three ketches well manned 
lying a league or two below Boston with his Majesty's express orders 
to seize all shipping and perform other acts of hostility against these re- 
volters would ... do more in one week's time than all the orders of King 
and Council to them in seven years." To make Massachusetts look even 
blacker, Randolph grandiloquently claimed that the other New England 
colonies would like nothing better than a royal governor general to rule 
over them. The plan was a little too abrupt for the Lords of Trade, but it 
echoed a considerable amount of influential opinion in England. 

Before leaving for England, Randolph traveled through New England 
trying to round up allies for his campaign to take over the colonial gov- 
ernments in behalf of the Crown. The motley group of allies that Randolph 
was able to accumulate has generally been called the "moderate party" — a 
curious concept, since they were neither moderate nor a party. It is diffi- 
cult to see why these satellites of the Crown should be called moderate. 
And they were by no means a homogeneous party, but a varied group of 
individuals, collected from different circumstances and occupations. 
Neither is it true that these "moderates" were "the merchants." It is 
true that the ruling oligarchy of magistrate gentry and Puritan ministers 
in Massachusetts generally excluded the merchants, and that the ranks of 
Randolph's favorites were drawn from the opponents to the existing 
regime. But merchants never form any sort of homogeneous "class," 
and they differed on this issue too. Furthermore, those seeking govern- 
ment privileges, or lucrative posts in the bureaucracy, perform an ec- 
onomic role entirely different from that of people genuinely engaged in 
trade; those so engaged oppose interference with their trade. It is highly 
misleading to lump the two together into the term "merchants."* 

In each case, Randolph tried to find the factor that would turn the 
person against the Massachusetts government. As in the case of the royal 
commissioners a decade earlier, Randolph found his first allies outside 
Massachusetts: Anglicans, especially in the Maine and New Hampshire 
towns; and Governor Josiah Winslow of Plymouth, who made Randolph a 
freeman of the colony. Winslow was motivated by understandable fear of 
Massachusetts aggression, a fear heightened by the unfortunate precedent 
set by Connecticut's swallowing up of New Haven. Plymouth was still in 
limbo without a charter and Winslow was anxious to curry favor with the 
Crown to obtain such a charter. 

•"Certainly a sizable number of colonists cooperated, or appeared to cooperate with 
Randolph. . . . But they were too multifarious to form a party. . . . Some wanted closer ties 
with England, some wanted religious toleration, some wanted aristocratic government, some . . , 
simply wanted political power" (Dunn, Puritans and Yankees, p. 218). 


Returning to England, Randolph wrote two lengthy reports in the fall of 
1676. In these he denounced Massachusetts in detail and erroneously 
asserted that the bulk of the people would welcome the capture of the 
government by the Crown and the consequent overthrow of the existing 
oligarchy. But with the theocracy already decidedly on the wane, many 
Massachusetts citizens undoubtedly felt that its elimination by such a 
route would be much too high a price to pay. 

Randolph tried to turn every contingency to his anti-Massachusetts de- 
signs. Thus, in late 1676 he wrote a series of papers in which he tried to tie 
in the measures under way against Bacon's Rebellion in Virginia. One 
paper suggested that the anti-Bacon fleet in Virginia proceed to Boston 
to help settle matters there. 

This time in peril, Massachusetts sent two agents to England to argue 
against Randolph's designs. In response, Randolph launched another series 
of detailed attacks on the colony. In the summer of 1677 the Committee of 
Chief Justices of the Lords of Trade issued their report on New England. The 
committee recommended for Massachusetts a supplementary charter, 
which Boston hailed as a great victory over Randolph's proposals. The 
Massachusetts General Court, cockily triumphant, ignored almost all of 
the other recommendations of the committee, brushing aside its demands 
that Massachusetts allow appeals or reviews of its laws to the Crown. 
Massachusetts even ignored a royal request of great symbolic, but only 
symbolic, importance: taking an oath of allegiance to the Crown. Instead, 
Massachusetts repeated its own independent Oath of Fidelity. Massa- 
chusetts' only concession was to agree to enforce the Navigation Acts in 
the colony — a very sore point with the Crown. But here, Massachusetts 
staunchly insisted on its view of its own absolute right to make laws for 
itself, and not have English laws apply overseas. Therefore, the Bay 
Colony proclaimed the Navigation Acts to be its own voluntary statute; 
it thereby evaded submitting to the authority of Crown or Parliament. 

The Committee of Chief Justices also decided to reject the Mason claim 
to New Hampshire; it also rejected the right of Massachusetts to rule 
there. This left New Hampshire explicitly in limbo, but with the implicit 
threat of being converted into a royal colony. Massachusetts expected, 
however, that the end of the Mason threat would soon result in the ac- 
knowledgment of its own jurisdiction over New Hampshire. For the 
Maine towns, however, the committee decided to acknowledge the 
Gorges claim. At this point, the King received shocking news. King 
Charles had hoped to buy the Maine charter back from Gorges, and then 
grant the area as a proprietary gift to his natural son, the Duke of Mon- 
mouth. But Massachusetts now executed a brilliant maneuver, purchas- 
ing all of Gorges' rights to Maine for £1,250 cash. Massachusetts now had 
an excellent royal title to the Maine towns and it later proceeded to 
enforce that title by trying to collect quitrents from the Maine settlers. 

At the turn of 1678 a clamor grew on all sides for the reopening of the 


Massachusetts case. Overconfident, Massachusetts itself wished to push 
on to final victory: the official incorporation of New Hampshire. And 
Randolph wished to bombard the Lords of Trade with anti-Massachusetts 
arguments, to reverse the decisions of the previous year. Finally, the 
report of Massachusetts' maneuver in Maine angered the committee 
and moved it to a general reevaluation of New England affairs. 

At the reopened proceedings of the committee, Randolph maneuvered 
masterfully. He first attacked the personal acts of the Massachusetts 
agents and heaped discredit on the agents, then turned to the Bay Colony 
itself. Here he stressed the colony's insistence that only Puritan church 
members could vote, and especially its lofty rejection, the previous 
fall, of the committee's proposals — a point well calculated to inflame the 
committee against Massachusetts Bay. Randolph also warned that Mas- 
sachusetts' imposition of an Oath of Fidelity was a direct threat to his own 
informers in the colony. 

By May 1678 Randolph's victory over Massachusetts was complete. The 
King insisted on the oath of allegiance in the colony, which Massachusetts 
finally accepted in October. But most important, the attorney general's ad- 
vice was accepted: Massachusetts' crimes and violations were sufficient 
to void its charter, and the Crown prepared to sue to nullify the charter 
in the courts. To complete the rout, Randolph was himself appointed, 
over Massachusetts' bitter protests, to be the collector of customs for 
New England — the first salaried bureaucrat to be stationed by the Crown 
in that region. Randolph's task was primarily to enforce the collection 
of duties from the Navigation Acts. The decisions in the spring of 1678 
spelled the beginning of the end of independence in Massachusetts and 
New England. 

At this point, with the jubilant Randolph prepared to distribute patron- 
age to his friends, events in England forced another turn: a postponement 
of the destruction of the Massachusetts charter. In 1678 Titus Oates and 
his friends touched off a mighty wave of anti-Catholic hysteria, with his 
elaborate hoax of a "Popish Plot" to assassinate the king and impose 
Roman Catholicism upon England. This hysteria was manipulated by a 
relatively liberal Country party, headed by Lord Shaftesbury, to ride 
briefly back into power. The Earl of Danby was impeached and sent to the 
Tower, and Shaftesbury became president of the Privy Council in 
early 1679 and a member of the Lords of Trade. In view of this, the com- 
mittee of the Lords of Trade realized that it had to postpone indefinitely 
its plans for crushing Massachusetts. The lords contented themselves 
with urging the colony to adopt liberty of conscience — especially of Anglican 
conscience — to repeal the religious restrictions on voting, and to impose the 
oath of allegiance. They also decided to move quickly on New Hampshire. The 
Lords of Trade made New Hampshire a new royal colony, with a president 
appointed by the king, an Assembly, and a Council of nine, of whom six 
were to be appointed by the Crown and the three others to be selected by 


those six. Robert Mason was persuaded to acknowledge the land titles of 
existing settlers, in return for a yearly feudal quitrent of not more than six 
pence on the pound. And the vital timberlands were to be reserved to the 
ownership of Mason. 

Edward Randolph finally returned to New England, after a delay of more 
than a year, to take up his post and to put the royal government of New 
Hampshire into effect. Randolph was instructed to administer an oath 
to uphold the Navigation Acts to each of the four colonial governors of 
New England. 



The Crown Takes over 
New Hampshire, 1680-1685 

Edward Randolph arrived in America in December 1679. His first task 
was to set up the royal government in New Hampshire. At Portsmouth 
in mid-January, Randolph invested John Cutt, a leading Portsmouth 
merchant, with the office of President. Randolph's problem in New 
Hampshire was to rule the four towns that were led by a small group 
of wealthy Puritan and Massachusetts merchants: the Vaughans, the 
Waldrons, the Cutts. As elsewhere, his policy was to divide and conquer. 
He achieved this aim by finding an ally in John Cutt. Next, Randolph 
appointed to the posts of councillor the other key merchant leaders; 
these included: Richard Waldron, Richard Martin, and William Vaughan. 
But five of the six councillors at first refused to serve, and it was the 
influence of John Cutt that finally persuaded them to end their civil 
disobedience and to assume their posts. Waldron became vice president 
of the colony. 

The new General Court of New Hampshire, consisting of Council 
and elected Assembly, met in March and bravely passed a kind of 
declaration of rights, asserting that "no act, imposition, law, or ordi- 
nance be made or imposed upon us, but such as shall be made by the 
Assembly, and approved by the President and Council. . . ." Brave 
words, but they ran straight against the intentions of the royal power. 

Leaving New Hampshire, Randolph left behind him another pliable 
ally, Walter Barefoot, his deputy collector of customs. Barefoot was to 
enforce the Navigation Acts strictly and collect the corollary revenue. 
Another ally was the Englishman Richard Chamberlain, a friend of 
Mason's who was appointed secretary of the New Hampshire Council. 


However, Randolph lost his number-one ally, Cutt, who died in early 
1681. Succeeding him in the post was the tough-minded merchant 
Richard Waldron. The new spirit was evident when Barefoot decreed 
that all ships entering and leaving Portsmouth must do so only under 
his authority. Waldron and his colleagues immediately displayed the 
old Massachusetts spirit of independence, promptly arresting Barefoot 
and trying him before the president and Council as the supreme court 
of the colony. Barefoot was charged with "having in a high and pre- 
sumptuous manner set up His Majesty's office of customs without leave 
from the president and Council . . . for disturbing and obstructing the subjects 
in passing from harbor to harbor and from town to town. . . ." Barefoot was 
found guilty and fined the considerable sum of ten pounds. 

New Hampshire was now in virtual revolt against the Crown's rule. 
King Charles quickly disallowed the colony's declaration of rights, 
and Robert Mason came to New Hampshire in late 1681 with the king's 
order requiring Mason to be admitted as a member of the Council. 
Mason's agents then began to demand his current and back qukrents 
from the settlers on pain of eviction, and to forbid the settlers to cut 
timber on "his lands." Acting on numerous aggrieved petitions, the 
Council commanded Mason and his agents to cease and desist from 
these harassments. There followed a test of strength: Mason summoned 
the Council to appear before the king, the Council issued a warrant for Mason's 
arrest as an usurper. Upon losing the test, Mason escaped arrest and fled back 
to England. 

But New Hampshire had also to face the royal might of England. 
Mason having told his tale, and Richard Chamberlain, Francis Champer- 
nowne, and Walter Barefoot having complained, the king decided to 
remodel the administration of New Hampshire and bring the rebellious 
colony to heel. Instead of a president, New Hampshire was now to have 
a royally appointed governor with greatly expanded powers. The 
governor could convoke or dissolve the General Court, veto its laws, 
remove councillors, constitute courts, and appoint officers. Selected to 
be the first royal governor was the court favorite, Edward Cranfield, 
who was promised a handsome salary and one-fifth of all the qukrents 

Cranfield arrived in New Hampshire in October 1682. Virtually his 
first act was to remove the independent- minded Waldron and Martin 
from office. He called an Assembly, which promulgated a new code of 
laws, this time omitting the declaration of rights. 

By December Cranfield had discovered that Mason, in persuading 
him to take the office, had misrepresented the little colony by stating 
that it was far wealthier and more populated than it was. For a short 
while, Cranfield, disappointed at the poor pickings, turned against 
Mason and Randolph, and restored Waldron and Martin to office. 

In a few more weeks, however, Cranfield remembered what he was 


there for, and settled down to his job of plundering as best he could. 
As Cranfield was reported to have said, he had come to New Hampshire 
for money and money he would have. Cementing his alliance with 
Randolph, he put Randolph on the New Hampshire Council, and also 
appointed him attorney general of the colony. Toward the end of 
December, Cranfield seized and dragged into court George Jaffrey, a 
Puritan merchant of Portsmouth, for shipping goods deemed contra- 
band under the navigation laws. At the trial, the jury, following the 
great English tradition of deciding on the justice of the law as well as 
the facts of the specific case, decided against the law and brought a 
verdict with court costs against the Crown. Cranfield reacted by re- 
moving Elias Stileman from his offices of councilman and commander of the 
fort. Stileman had disobeyed an order to fire on Jaffrey' s ship and was 
replaced as commander by the always pliable Capt. Walter Barefoot. 
The most high-handed reaction of Cranfield was to direct Randolph to 
prosecute the jury and all others involved in the criminal conspiracy. 
Cranfield would have liked to proceed against the main leader of the 
resistance, Rev. Joshua Moody, a Puritan minister who was also a 

Cranfield now found the popularly elected Assembly refusing to 
pass his demands for higher taxes. The governor decided to institute 
a complete executive despotism and subdue the recalcitrant colonists. 
Cranfield dissolved the Assembly and made himself and the Council 
the supreme legislative and judicial power. He changed the juries from being 
elective to agencies appointed by the governor. 

Virtually the entire populace of the colony, led by the merchants, 
freeholders, and Puritans, bitterly opposed the despotic regime that 
Cranfield had managed to impose in three short months in office. The 
people of New Hampshire were not the sort to take this treatment 
passively. Many people in Exeter resisted payment of the tax levy, 
but Edward Gove, a deputy from Hampton, decided on more active 
resistance: rebellion. Gove, aided by Nathaniel Ladd, of a prominent 
New Hampshire family, rode to and fro between Hampton and Exeter 
on January 27 trying to raise a rebellion and claiming that Cranfield's 
commission was invalid. Gove raised the cry of "liberty and reforma- 
tion," but the other leaders of the colony decided that rebellion was 
imprudent, and the tiny band of eleven men was quickly arrested by 
the soldiery. There is reason to believe that the Gove rising was pre- 
mature, and that the leaders of the popular opposition were them- 
selves preparing to revolt three days later. 

The Gove rebels were tried for high treason on February 2 — ironically, 
the chief judge was Richard Waldron, a man whose views and sentiments 
were all with Gove. Waldron knew that Gove was right, and that he, 
Waldron, should have been standing in the dock instead of judging the 
man now there. But as often happens when men confront the embodiment 


of their conscience, Waldron was especially severe. For daring to speak 
in his own defense, Gove was denounced by Waldron for "insolence" and 
then sentenced to be tortured and executed. Gove's property was duly 
confiscated, and part of the spoils, as was the rule, was pocketed per- 
sonally by Governor Cranfield. But Cranfield feared the rising revolu- 
tionary situation and was worried that Gove might escape, so he decided 
to follow the royal rule for rebels and ship Gove to England. Gove's col- 
leagues, though also convicted of treason, were released. In England Gove 
was imprisoned in the Tower of London, where there may have been an 
attempt to poison him. 

Cranfield and his little clique now imposed a grinding despotism upon 
the colony. Cranfield speedily removed Waldron and Martin from the 
Council once again, and appointed Barefoot his deputy governor and 
Mason the chancellor. With the magistrates and juries all appointed by 
the governor, Mason began mass prosecution for failure to pay quitrents. 
Cranfield was supplied with a special incentive to enforce Mason's claims: 
one-fifth of the quitrents extracted from the people was to go to Cranfield 
himself. Mason won thirty or forty suits before packed juries, and had the 
satisfaction of winning the first suit against none other than Waldron; 
the jury consisted of tenants of Robert Mason. But when executions were 
levied, no one would buy the confiscated lands or take possession of 
them. They remained in the hands of the property owners. 

Cranfield now tried to meet this nonviolent resistance and extract 
Mason's rents by force, but the people, emboldened by news of Gove's 
life being spared, rose up and met force with force, led by Waldron, 
Vaughan, and Reverend Mr. Moody. Cranfield promptly retaliated by 
clamping the colony's leaders — including Waldron, Moody, Vaughan, and 
Stileman — into jail. But this also failed, for the people managed to release 
many of them from prison and the rest were bailed out. 

Cranfield, undaunted, pressed on in his despotic course. The ships of Massa- 
chusetts (thought to be anti-Cranfield) were excluded from New Hampshire, 
because of Massachusetts' persistent violations of the navigation laws. He 
altered town boundaries, and forbade the collection of town and parish taxes 
until taxes to the province were paid. 

Executive despots have traditionally had one Achilles' heel: taxes. Cran- 
field found himself forced in January 1684 to recall the Assembly to try to 
raise more tax revenues. Cranfield used the old device of despots: trying to 
frighten the Assembly with dark forebodings of a foreign and an Indian 
threat. He had secret intelligence, said Cranfield, that New Hampshire 
was in danger of foreign invasion; he therefore demanded the doubling 
of tax rates for various increased expenses of government, including the 
repair of the Portsmouth fort. But the Assembly staunchly refused to be 
intimidated by war scares and refused to pass the revenue bill. 

Governor Cranfield now dissolved the Assembly again, and proceeded 
to the ultimate length of levying taxes himself, without consent of the 


Assembly. He also angered the colonists deeply by deciding to suppress 
completely the colony's largest church, the Puritan church, and to im- 
pose Anglicanism on New Hampshire by force. Cranfield's goal was to 
suppress the Puritan ministers and force them to administer the sacra- 
ments according to the Anglican rite. He also called for an Anglican test 
for holding any public office. Concretely, he proceeded with enthusiasm 
against one of the leading opponents of his despotic regime, Portsmouth's 
Puritan minister, Rev. Joshua Moody. Cranfield, backed by Mason and 
Councillor John Hinckes, ordered Moody to administer to them the sacra- 
ment of the Lord's Supper after the Anglican order. When Moody re- 
fused, he was arrested. Cranfield put considerable pressure on the 
judges and Moody was condemned and sentenced to six months' impris- 
onment. After his release, Moody was prohibited from preaching, which 
forced him to move to Boston. 

But the tide now began to turn against the governor. The sober, moder- 
ate Nathaniel Weare, justice of the peace and leading citizen of Hamp- 
ton, was sent secretly out of the colony. Financed by the leading planters 
and merchants, he sailed to London. Weare came armed with an ex- 
tensive petition to the king against the tyranny of Cranfield. Even 
Edward Randolph, apprised of the Weare petition, turned against the ex- 
tremes of Cranfield. Cranfield's own response to the Weare petition, 
incidentally, was characteristic of the man: he would get the names of 
all the signers "and it would be the best hand he ever had, for it would 
be worth £100 a man." For helping Weare with the petition, the prom- 
inent merchant and landowner William Vaughan was imprisoned for 
nine months by Cranfield. However, the cause of New England in gen- 
eral, and New Hampshire specifically, was now being argued by the lib- 
eral George Savile, Marquis of Halifax, and president of the Privy Council. 
Halifax argued frankly, according to the report of a French envoy, "that 
the same laws in force in England ought to be established in a country 
inhabited by Englishmen; that an absolute government was neither so 
happy nor so safe as one that is tempered by laws; and that he could not 
make his mind easy to live in a country where the King should have the 
power to take the money he had in his pocket, whenever His Majesty 
saw fit." 

The first sign of the Crown's displeasure with Cranfield came in April 
1684, when the Lords of Trade rebuked him for deciding the Mason claims 
himself, instead of sending them to England to be adjudicated, as per his 
instructions. But Cranfield's internal troubles were even greater. The 
attempt to enforce payment of the new taxes led to general civil dis- 
obedience in the colony. All refused to pay taxes to the constables. And 
when the property of the resistors was finally seized, no one would buy. 
In December the resistance began to move into the stage of outright revo- 
lution. At Exeter, cudgels and boiling water were used to drive off the 
marshal, the hated Thomas Thurston. In Hampton, Thurston was disarmed 


and beaten, and from there was escorted to the village of Salisbury with a 
rope around his neck. When the Magistrate Robie ordered seizure of some 
of the mob, he was assaulted instead. The governor ordered a troop of 
cavalry, commanded by Robert Mason, into the field to put down the re- 
bellion. But so widespread was the revolutionary movement that at the 
appointed time and place, Mason found himself alone on his horse. During 
the height of the turmoil, in June 1685, Cranfield took the precaution of 
taking extended leave of absence in the West Indies, for his "health"; he 
left Barefoot to face the music. 

Meanwhile, England was rapidly turning against its agent. King 
Charles II died in February 1685 and was succeeded by his brother, the 
Duke of York, James II. In April, Halifax again censured Cranfield for not 
sending the Massachusetts disputes to England. Edward Randolph now be- 
gan to denounce his former creature openly and bitterly: "Cranfield in 
New Hampshire by his arbitrary proceedings has so harassed that poor 
people that they. . . wish again to be under the Bostoners. For Mr. Cran- 
field has quite ruined that place And should a Governor go over who will 

tread in Mr. Cranfield's steps or do worse things (if possible), it will 
cool the inclinations of good men, and make them take the first occasion 
to free themselves." 

With the accession of King James, Edward Gove was freed from the 
Tower, pardoned, and returned home in the autumn of 1685. Walter Bare- 
foot was now in precarious charge of the province, but he and Mason lay 
discreetly low. The symbolic end to the Cranfield reign of terror came in 
December when the once mighty Barefoot and Mason were severely 
beaten up in the former's home by two leading citizens of the colony. 
A former despotism had become opera bouffe. And Cranfield? Cranfield 
found it best — for his health — to make his leave permanent. He remained 
in the West Indies as collector on Barbados. 



Edward Randolph Versus 
Massachusetts, 1680-1684 

After Randolph established the royal government in New Hampshire, 
he repaired to Boston, where he took up his duties as collector of customs 
at the end of January 1680. At Boston, Randolph was treated by the bulk of 
the populace of Massachusetts as their determined enemy. Complained 
Randolph: "I am received at Boston more like a spy, than one of His Maj- 
esty's servants ... all persons taking liberty to abuse me in their discourses/' 
His servant was beaten. Efforts were made to prevent the hated official 
from finding lodgings, but now Massachusetts' past persecutions came 
home to roost. Randolph found lodgings — and allies — among the Quakers. 

The key to Randolph's appointed task of enforcing the Navigation Acts 
was the process of seizure and trial. Any vessel under suspicion of vio- 
lating the law could be seized by a royal officer, and the owner could not 
touch the ship or the cargo until the case came to trial. During this period, 
the owner was, in effect, treated as guilty before so proven. Court action 
was initiated by filing a formal charge by the informer, the man who de- 
tected the alleged violation. Any person could perform the job of inform- 
ing. If the owner was found guilty, the vessel was ordered sold and the pro- 
ceeds to be divided among the king, the colonial government, and the 
informer. In practice, however, violators were allowed to settle for much 
smaller payments. In Massachusetts Randolph himself was the sole of- 
ficer and the only one empowered to search shipping. 

In May 1680 Randolph seized his first vessel, the Expectation. During the 
next three years, Randolph seized thirty-six ships charged with violating 
the navigation laws. All but two of the shipowners were acquitted. No 
case tried by a jury won a conviction. And as for the Massachusetts mag- 
istrates, they tried in every way to obstruct Randolph's path. They either 


refused to recognize Randolph's commission from the Crown or inter- 
preted it very narrowly. They charged to Randolph the costs of special 
sessions of the courts and payable in advance. In a brilliant counterstroke, 
the Massachusetts magistrates encouraged the merchants to bring dam- 
age suits against Randolph as soon as they won their almost inevitable 
acquittal in the courts. All the deputies and employees hired by Randolph 
were systematically harassed, and often boldly imprisoned for trespass- 
ing private property. 

Randolph, moreover, was none too scrupulous in his choice of vessels to 
seize. Much of Randolph's personal income was to come from the revenues 
collected, as well as from fees of fifty percent of the value of confiscated 
goods for being his own informer. So Randolph had a direct personal inter- 
est in maximizing the severity of enforcement of the Navigation Acts. 

There are always people eager to crook the knee to power, and here and 
there Randolph found his allies. His main confederate was Governor 
Simon Bradstreet. Along with Bradstreet came several of the magis- 
trates, including Bradstreet's brother-in-law, Joseph Dudley. But Brad- 
street could not intimidate the popular juries. In one case, Bradstreet 
himself angrily sent the jury out three times in a vain attempt to reverse 
its verdict of acquittal. At the head of the popular opposition, on the other 
hand, was the deputy governor Thomas Danforth. It was Danforth who 
incurred the brunt of Randolph's frustrated ire. Yet, the opposition was 
unwilling to push its resistance to the point of directly opposing the incur- 
sions of royal power. Thus, in the case of Capt. Peter Lawrence, who 
forcibly resisted royal seizure and drove Randolph off, the Court of As- 
sistants arrested him summarily. In another case, the jury quickly acquitted 
the shipmaster for breaking the Navigation Acts, but did fine him for 
obstructing Randolph in the course of his duty. 

By the turn of 1681, the turmoil of the "Popish Plot" and the temporary 
ascendancy of Shaftesbury and the liberals were over. Tory reaction was 
again in firm control of the English government. The Crown was once 
again ready to resume its campaign against Massachusetts, and, of course, 
it was continually excited to do so by Randolph, Mason, and others. And 
once again the king, in a message delivered by Robert Mason, ordered 
Massachusetts to send agents to England. Everyone now knew that 
drastic modification of the Massachusetts charter would shortly ensue. 
The smell of doom for Massachusetts was in the air. 

At the crossroads, Massachusetts now, in January 1681, began to crum- 
ble. Resistance ebbed. Perhaps the Puritans and magistrates had lost much 
of their spirit of sturdy independence as well as their zeal for persecution. 
Thomas Danforth argued at length the vital importance of Massachusetts' 
taking its stand right here and refusing to send the agents. He warned 
of the end of "the country's liberties." But the bulk of the leadership was 
caving in. The Puritan church elders; a committee of six leading Puritan 
ministers headed by the Reverend Increase Mather; and such leading 
merchants as the magistrate Joseph Dudley and William Stoughton — all 


argued for submission and for sending the agents. But Danforth perceived 
that here would be the critical turn, that submission here would mean 
betrayal of the entire cause. Almost single-handed and alone, Danforth 
charged the ministers with treason and betrayal of their liberty. He was 
scoffed at for his supposed extremism. Stoughton and Bradstreet de- 
nounced him for going too far. Randolph sneered at him as "the bellows 
of the Court of Deputies." 

Massachusetts voted to send agents, and Randolph took the opportunity 
of traveling to England to wage his campaign against Massachusetts in 
person. After arriving in England in spring, Randolph asked the king for 
a quo warranto to invalidate the Massachusetts charter. He proposed that 
he be allowed to nominate a president and council of the colony to be a transi- 
tional substitute, and then he suggested that the king appoint a governor 
general for all New England. After considerable difficulties, Randolph did 
secure a new and rather more extensive commission, explicitly authorizing 
him to enforce all the Navigation Acts and to collect miscellaneous Crown 
revenues. As a result, when Randolph returned to New England in late 1681, 
he was greeted with even more hatred than before. One local versifier put 
Boston's sentiments as follows: 

Welcome, Sir, welcome from the eastern shore, 

With a commission stronger than before, 

To Play the horse-leech; rob us of our fleeces, 

To rend our land, and tear it all to pieces . . . 

Boston, make room, Randolph's returned, that hector, 

Confirmed at home to be the sharp Collector . . . 

So royal Charles is now about to prove, 

Our Loyalty, Allegiance and our Love, 

In giving license to a publican 

To pinch the purse ... to hurt the man. 

Now Massachusetts, having already tried to gain some favor from the 
king by repealing the fanatical Puritan laws against keeping Christmas 
and punishing Quakers returning from banishment with death, at- 
tempted a shrewd maneuver: it would pass a Naval Office Law enacting 
the Navigation Acts of 1660 and 1663, thereby making them Massachu- 
setts' own. This would enable Massachusetts itself to appoint the naval 
officer to enforce the acts, and to undercut and bypass Randolph com- 
pletely. The Navigation Act of 1673 was ignored, because it was the only 
statute that gave Randolph his legal foothold in America. The General 
Court itself would appoint the naval officer; the hard-core opposition did 
not want appointive power to rest in the hands of Randolph's ally, the 
opportunist Governor Bradstreet. Furthermore, the informer was at last 
made fully liable for any damages resulting from false seizure. 

This Naval Office Law was pushed through the General Court in early 
1682 at the insistence of the House of Deputies, which was under the firm 
control of the popular opposition, and over the stubborn resistance of the 


more timorous and opportunistic upper house, the Council of Magistrates. 
The magistrates were almost evenly split between the opportunists and 
the popular opposition.* 

It did not take long for Edward Randolph to make a severe protest 
against the Naval Office Law. He reiterated the full force of his royal com- 
mission as well as the invalidity of the Massachusetts law. The oppo- 
sition party now took measures to proceed against Randolph, who ex- 
pected imprisonment at the very least, knowing that as a rider to the 
Naval Office Law there had been reenacted the death penalty against 
subversion — a clear warning to the likes of Randolph. 

But once again timorousness won out over bold action for independence 
and against royal tyranny. Growing stronger, the opportunists were 
able to squash the proceedings against Randolph, and were also able to 
reelect their leader Bradstreet over Thomas Danforth the following May. 
Bradstreet had never administered the Naval Office Law, and now, em- 
boldened by his victory, he counterattacked and maintained that the Naval 
Office Law somehow did not affect Randolph's powers. 

But now, in June 1682, Randolph grew overconfident, and tried to press 
his advantage by putting the General Court of Massachusetts to the test. He 
propounded a series of blunt questions that would force the court to state 
directly its views as to which laws, English or American, ruled the col- 
ony. But the House of Deputies simply refused to answer, and the Council 
thought Randolph had gone too far and reprimanded him for abusing the 
laws and government of Massachusetts. The battle of Randolph vs. Massa- 
chusetts was still stalemated. 

In the meanwhile, Massachusetts' two agents, the opportunist Joseph 
Dudley and the oppositionist Capt. John Richards, had arrived in England 
and Danforth's gloomy prophecy was beginning to come true. In England 
Tory reaction had set in with a vengeance. Charles II ruled without Par- 
liament, and the religious Dissenters were vigorously persecuted. The 
Lords of Trade now wasted little time; at the end of 1682 the fatal ques- 
tion was put to Massachusetts: Would Massachusetts empower its agents 
to make revisions of the charter, or, failing that, would the charter be 
dissolved altogether? 

Massachusetts now tried desperately to placate the Crown. It re- 
pealed the Naval Office Law in early 1683, and conceded Randolph's ex- 
plicit authority to search and seize vessels. Massachusetts, nobly, would 
not yield on the crucial issue; even if it had to die, it would not commit 
suicide. It would not allow its agents to revise its precious charter. As 

•Roughly, the ge